The two biggest headlines in the last week have come from the Pew Forum's latest survey. Below are links to CNN reports on each.
The first headline is that self-identified Protestants no longer comprise a majority of the U.S. population. The Protestant population has dropped from 53% of the U.S. population in 2007 to 48% now. Much of the decline is among the white mainline Protestants which as a group have been declining in numbers steadily for decades.
The second is that one in five Americans now claim to have no religious affiliation. This group, called the "religious nones," is an eclectic group. Two-thirds of the nones say they believe in God, one-third refer to themselves as "spiritual but not religious," one in five admit praying every day, and 64% of them identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party. Religion & Ethics Newsweekly will actually be doing a three-part miniseries on the rise of the religious nones (October 12, 19, and 26).
There can be disagreement about how to interpret these trends. One is that it is the continued march of secularization. Another is that the first findings is further evidence of religious competition, while the latter is evidence that a new niche may exist for religious groups to court. In any event, the former trend has been continuing for decades, while the latter trend has been more recent.