More Non-Evangelicals Are Calling Themselves Born Again

News & Reporting | 1/21/2020 | Staff
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Just as more Americans are becoming religiously unaffiliated (“nones”), there’s another major shift happening on the other side of the religious spectrum. More people today say they are “born again” than at any point in the past three decades.

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Portions - Country - Jettison - Religion - Others

It almost seems counterintuitive. While significant portions of the country jettison religion, others are increasingly identifying with a more devout expression of the faith. Across segments of Christianity—not just evangelical Protestants—Americans are heeding the scriptural call that “you must be born again” (John 3:7), even when the label has not historically been part of their faith traditions.

For decades, demographers have measured born-again identity. The General Social Survey (GSS), asks respondents, “Would you say you have been ‘born again’ or have had a ‘born again’ experience—that is, a turning point in your life when you committed yourself to Christ?”

Percent - Sample - Year - Question - Question

Just over 36 percent of the entire sample said that they were born again in 1988, the first year the question was asked. The question appeared sporadically on the GSS until 2004, when it became a part of every bi-annual survey as the number of affirmative responses began to rise. In the last 14 years, the share of born-again Americans has risen to 41 percent, and much higher (54%) among people of color. Since 2010, at least half of people of color say that they have had a “turning point in their life” when they committed themselves to Christ.

Some might assume the continued rise of born-again Christians reflects the steady portion of evangelical Protestants in America, while mainline Protestants, who are less likely to call themselves born again, have undergone more rapid decline. But actually, across all Christian traditions—even mainline denominations and Catholics—born-again identity is trending up.

Shares - Protestants - Evangelicals

Large shares of black Protestants and evangelicals have consistently considered themselves...
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