A so-called "non-religious" demographic that lacks faith in a divine authority is positioned to have a significant impact on future generations.
"To be clear, the total number of religiously unaffiliated people ... is expected to rise in absolute terms, from 1.17 billion in 2015 to 1.20 billion in 2060," Pew Research analysis from April 2017 indicated. "But this growth is projected to occur at the same time that other religious groups -- and the global population overall -- are growing even faster."
The religious "nones" encompass 22.8 percent of the American population, according to a religious landscape study by Pew Research Center. Pew includes atheists, agnostics, and people who identify as "nothing in particular" in this category.
"Young people who are not particularly religious seem to be much more comfortable identifying as 'nones' than are older people who display a similar level of religious observance," Pew noted.
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"Nearly eight in ten millennials with low levels of religious commitment describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or 'nothing in particular.' By contrast, just 54 percent of Americans in the Silent and Greatest generations who have low levels of religious commitment say they are unaffiliated," Pew researchers wrote in 2016.
This religiously unaffiliated group has been growing; even so, Pew Research projects the "nones" will decline in coming years.
"For years, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has been rising, a trend similar to what has been happening in much of Europe (including the United Kingdom). Despite this, in coming decades, the global share of religiously unaffiliated people is actually expected to fall," according to Pew.
The group attributes this foreseeable decline to these individuals' age -- they are older, on average; and they have fewer kids than those affiliated with a religion.
"A lack of religious affiliation has profound effects on how people think about death, how they teach their kids, and even how they vote," journalist Gabe Bullard noted in an April 2016 National Geographic feature story. "They're the second largest religious group in North America and most of Europe. In the United States, nones make up almost a quarter of the population."
In the United States and indeed worldwide, Christianity currently ranks as the largest religion.