Abstract

According to two recent reports, between 15 and 18 percent of Americans are now religiously unaffiliated, up from 7 percent in 1991. Using Wave 1 of the Portraits of American Life Study (PALS), I find that 13 percent of religiously affiliated Americans seriously considered leaving religion altogether between 2003 and 2006. However, less than half went on to actually disaffiliate by 2006. This study examines four key issues associated with both considering and actually leaving religion and investigates differences between religious stayers and leavers. In particular, I examine the potential influence of political attitudes, religious skepticism, life stressors, and sociodemographic characteristics. Results of binary and multinomial logistic regression analyses reveal that each is associated with considering and leaving religion, but not necessarily in uniform and expected directions.

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