People say they're leaving religion because of anti-LGBTQ teachings and abuse People in the U.S. are switching religions and leaving religion altogether in large numbers. A new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute shows a high level of "religious churning."

People say they're leaving religion due to anti-LGBTQ teachings and sexual abuse

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People in the U.S. are leaving and switching faith traditions in large numbers. NPR religion correspondent Jason DeRose reports on a new study from the Public Religion Research Institute that looks at who's leaving and why.

JASON DEROSE, BYLINE: The idea of religious churning is very common in America, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, or PRRI. Around one-quarter of Americans now ID as unaffiliated. This study looks at where that group is coming from.

MELISSA DECKMAN: Thirty-five percent were former Catholics, 35% were former mainline Protestants. Only about 16% were former evangelicals.

DEROSE: Melissa Deckman is PRRI's chief executive.

DECKMAN: And really, not many of those Americans are, in fact, looking for an organized religion that would be right for them. We just found it was 9%.

DEROSE: Which has, Deckman says, implications for how and even whether houses of worship should try to attract new people. Among other findings, the Catholic Church is losing more members than it's gaining, though the numbers are slightly better for retention among Hispanic Catholics. There is much lower religious churn among Black Protestants and among Jews, who seem overall happy in their faith traditions and tend to stay there. As for why people leave religions, PRRI found that about two-thirds of people who leave a faith tradition say they did so because they simply stopped believing in that religion's teachings. And nearly half of respondents who left cited negative teachings about the treatment of LGBTQ people. Deckman says those numbers were especially high, with one group in particular.

DECKMAN: Religion's negative teachings about LGBTQ people are driving younger Americans to leave the church. We found that about 60% of Americans who are under the age of 30 who have left religion say they left because of their religious traditions teaching, which is at a much higher rate than older Americans.

DEROSE: Hispanic Americans are also more likely to say they've left a religion over LGBTQ issues. Other reasons cited for leaving - clergy sexual abuse and overinvolvement in politics. The new PRRI report is based on a survey of more than 5,600 adults late last year. About one-third of religiously unaffiliated Americans say they no longer identify with their childhood religion because the religion was bad for their mental health. That response was strongest among LGBTQ respondents.

Jason DeRose, NPR News.


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