Thursday, October 28, 2010

Religion in the United States

I'm reading through American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.  The book is a study of how and why religious trends in the U.S. have changed (or remained the same) over the past 50 years.  The argument made in the introductory chapter is that religion in the U.S. has become more polarized and yet more pluralistic at the same time.

The two ends of the religious spectrum (those who claim "no religion" and those who are "very religious") are both increasing.  The middle is dropping out.  And yet, even though religious belief is shifting towards the poles, segregation and isolation of the like-minded is not happening.  Instead, inter-religious relationships - whether in workplace, neighborhood, family, or friendships - are increasing.

Below I'll be posting some of the interesting statistics or observations I come across in my reading.
  • Compared to England:
    • 54% of British say they never pray.... 18% of Americans say they never pray
    • 9% of British believe scripture is the actual word of God... 33% of Americans believe scripture is the actual word of God.
  • United States religious demographics:
    • 30% are Evangelical Protestant
    • 25% are Roman Catholic (Roman Catholic is single largest denomination in U.S.)
    • 17% report no religious affiliation, yet very few of these "Nones" claim the label atheist or agnostic
    • 14% are Mainline Protestant
    • 8% are Black Protestant
    • 3% are "Other" (Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc)
    • 2% are Jewish
    • 2% are Mormon
  • Ranking of most religiously observant groups in the U.S. (based on factors such as church attendance, prayer, belief in Scripture, etc).
    1. Mormon
    2. Black Protestant
    3. Evangelical Protestant
    • -substantial gap between top 3 and next two-
    1. Mainline Protestant
    2. Catholic
  • The most religious states in the U.S. are states in the deep south and the Mississippi Valley and also Utah.
  • The least religious states in the U.S. are in the Northeast (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware), the Far West (Oregon, California) and also Colorado and Wisconsin.
  • In 1957, 69% of Americans observed that "the influence of religion in America is growing". 
    By 1970, that percent had fallen to 14%. Then, by 1985 it was back up to 48%
  • The "evangelical rise" lasted from the 1970s until the early 1990s, but actually stopped 20 years ago.  The number of evangelicals has decreased since that time.
  • In 1960, approximately 65% of Americans believed that the "Bible is the actual word of God, to be taken literally, word for word."  In 2010, 29% of Americans held the same belief. 

More to come.