HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The growing number of Americans who don't claim religious affiliation are more likely to be male, younger, living in the West and politically independent, a new report finds.
"American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population" takes a deeper look at data collected for the American Religious Identification Survey 2008, which was released earlier this year by Trinity College.
The report identified an estimated 34 million adult "nones" in 2008 - up from 14 million in 1990. Those not affiliated with any religion accounted for 15 percent of U.S. population, up from 8.1 percent in 1990. Most of the gains took place during what the authors called the "secular boom" of the 1990s.
If current trends hold true, "nones" could account for about one-quarter of the U.S. population in two decades, the study projects.
The religiously unaffiliated are beginning to more closely resemble the general population as their ranks grow, but distinctions exist on gender and age, the study found. Sixty percent of "nones" are male, and 40 percent are female; 30 percent are under age 30 and only 5 percent are 70 years or older.
The religiously unaffiliated in the U.S. "embrace philosophical and theological beliefs that reflect skepticism rather than overt antagonism toward religion," the report says.
Only 27 percent of "nones" profess belief in a personal God, compared to 70 percent of adults overall. But only a small number of the unaffiliated - 7 percent - are atheists. Groups the study identified as "hard agnostics" and "soft agnostics" accounted for 35 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.