Study Documents Religious Landscape
Special Report - February 28, 2008
The religious landscape in America is “both very diverse and extremely fluid,” according to a new study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The Pew Forum conducted surveys on 35,000 Americans, asking questions about religious affiliation. The diversity mentioned by the reports refers to those interviewed who called themselves as Christian. This Christian demographic is marked by “significant internal diversity and fragmentation, encompassing hundreds of different denominations,” according to the survey summary. Despite these findings, Christianity remains the dominant religious affiliation in America 78.4 percent of those surveyed affiliated themselves with Christianity.
The Pew survey also indicates fluidity among the American population. According to the report, “More than one-quarter of American adults (28 percent) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religionor no religion at all.” This fluidity is impacting the overall population of almost every religious affiliation. For those affiliations declining in number, the survey indicates that the affiliations “are not attracting enough new members to offset the number of adherents who are leaving those particular faiths.”
Non-Christian religions such as Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism account for only 4.7 percent of those surveyed. Sixteen percent of the participants are not affiliated with any religion. This unaffiliated portion is “the biggest gainer in this religious competition,” even though it has one of the lowest retention rates. This means that even though people do not tend to stay unaffiliated for long, more people are switching from religions affiliations to an unaffiliated status. Young adults are more likely than older adults to become unaffiliated, which indicates that “recent declines in the number of Protestants and growth in the size of the unaffiliated population may continue,” according to the survey.
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