A study has shown that more and more Americans are losing faith and identifying as atheist—with this all religions have had a reduction in people following their faith with the singular exception of Islām.
Approximately 23% of Americans who were born and raised Muslim no longer identify with the faith; this is very similar to Christianity which stands at 22%. However, despite the drop in Muslim numbers due to this, researchers found roughly the same number entering the faith, with ~23% of American Muslim adults being converts. This is in contrast to only 6% of Americans embracing Christianity. Christianity, therefore, has seen a net reduction, whilst Islām has remained roughly in equilibrium.
An updated 2017 Pew Research Centre survey of U.S. Muslims produced similar findings with 24% of born Muslims leaving the religion. The 2017 data highlights that 55% of surveyed individuals no longer identify with any religion, 22% as Christian, and 21% identified as belonging to varying smaller groups, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, or “spiritual”.
This same survey queried, in the words of the participants, their reasons for leaving the faith. 25% cited issues with religion and faith in general, 12% quoted their dislike for organised religion, 8% did not believe in God, and 5% simply did not consider themselves religious. Roughly one-in-five cited a reason specific to their experience with Islām, such as being raised Muslim but never connecting with the faith (9%), disagreeing with the teachings (7%) of Islām, preference for other religions or philosophies (16%), and personal “growth” experiences (14%) such as becoming more “educated or maturing”.
One striking difference between former Muslims and those who have always been Muslim was found in those participants who had emigrated from Iran This can be attributed to the Iranian Revolution which drove secular Iranians to seek political refuge from the new theocratic regime. Among those who converted to Islām, a majority had a Christian background. Just over half of all converts (53%) had previously identified as Protestant; another 20% were Catholic. Lastly, just under one-in-five (19%) had no religion before converting to Islām, while smaller percentages of participants had converted to Islām from Orthodox Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism or other religions.
Reasons as to why converts accepted Islām varied greatly. 25% said they preferred the beliefs or teachings of Islām to their prior doctrine, while 21% had read and studied Islamic religious texts before making the switch. Some cited wanting to belong to a community (10%), for some marriage or relationships were the prime motivator (9%), some were introduced to the faith by a friend, or the following of a public leader (9%).
The number of American Muslims has also been said to have grown steadily in recent years according to other studies, with approximately 100,000 Americans joining the faith every year. Whatever the exact figures, the revelation that the numbers of conversions to and from the faith are similar has caused many to quote verses in the Qur’ān stating:
“And if you turn away, He will replace you with another people; then they will not be the likes of you.”
- Mohamed B. The share of Americans who leave Islam offset by Muslim converts | Pew Research Center [Internet]. Pewresearch.org. 2018 [cited 29 January 2018]. Available from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/26/the-share-of-americans-who-leave-islam-is-offset-by-those-who-become-muslim/?amp=1&__twitter_impression=true
- Chapter 2: Religious Switching and Intermarriage [Internet]. Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. 2015 [cited 29 January 2018]. Available from: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/chapter-2-religious-switching-and-intermarriage/#net-gains-and-losses-by-religious-tradition-unaffiliated-make-big-gains-catholics-suffer-major-losses
- S. Muslims Concerned About Their Place in Society, but Continue to Believe in the American Dream [Internet]. Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. 2017 [cited 29 January 2018]. Available from: http://www.pewforum.org/2017/07/26/findings-from-pew-research-centers-2017-survey-of-us-muslims/
- Al-Qur’ān, 47:38