Review of Religious Research

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 435–457 | Cite as

Religious Non-involvement Among African Americans, Black Caribbeans and Non-hispanic Whites: Findings from the National Survey of American Life

  • R. Khari BrownEmail author
  • Robert Joseph Taylor
  • Linda M. Chatters
Original Paper


This study examines the association between race/ethnicity, socio-demographic characteristics, and religious non-involvement among a national sample of African Americans, Black Caribbeans and Non-Hispanic Whites. The relationship between religious non-involvement and selected measures of religious participation, spirituality, religious coping is also examined. The study utilizes data from a national multi-stage probability sample, the National Survey of American Life (n = 6,082). Very few individuals, <1 out of 20 respondents, both never attended religious services and have no current denomination. Overall, <8 % have never attended religious services since the age of 18. Both African Americans and Black Caribbeans were significantly less likely than non-Hispanic Whites to report never attending religious services and not having a current denomination. The greater reliance upon religious institutions for support and guidance among African Americans and Black Caribbean Americans relative to Non-Hispanic Whites may help explain the importance of race in predicting religious non-involvement. Women, married persons, Southerners, and the more highly educated are significantly more likely to be involved in religion. Finally, this study indicates that the religiously non-involved are less likely than others to participate in religious activities, to identify as spiritual, and to rely upon religion to cope with trying circumstances. Nonetheless, even respondents who never attend religious services and do not have a denomination still report some level of religious participation along with relatively high levels of religious coping. We posit that religious non-involvement is less indicative of apostasy, but rather likely reflects a critique of organized religion.


Race Ethnicity Religious non-involvement 



The preparation of this manuscript was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health to Dr. Chatters (R01-MH084963), and to Drs. Chatters and Taylor (R01-MH082807) and from the National Institute on Aging to Drs. Jackson and Taylor (R01-AG15281). The data on which this study is based is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; U01-MH57716) with supplemental support from the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Michigan.


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Copyright information

© Religious Research Association, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Khari Brown
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert Joseph Taylor
    • 2
  • Linda M. Chatters
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SociologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.School of Public Health, School of Social WorkUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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