There was a time, not too long ago, when the vast majority of Americans identified as Christians, at least nominally. In some places, this dynamic hasn’t changed much: Head south, for example, and you’ll find that roughly 60 percent of Mississippians are Baptists. But in at least 20 states, religiously unaffiliated people make up a greater share of the population than any one faith group or denomination.
These findings are drawn from a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, or PRRI, which sampled more than 101,000 U.S. adults between January 2016 and January 2017. The report’s state-by-state break-downs offer a detailed look at the geography of American religion—and non-religion. People who don’t identify with any particular religion also don’t fit any particular demographic mold: They come from a range of racial, income, and educational backgrounds. While Christianity still dominates the country’s religious landscape, people who don’t have much connection to religion are gaining an increasingly large cultural footprint in certain places.
Religious disaffiliation isn’t exactly new in the U.S. The country has always been home to a sizable minority of people who don’t go to church or identify with any faith. Religiosity has come in waves: Historians say that early 19th-century America looked a lot like America today, for example, with large groups of people not associated with any religious institution.