Religion in the United States

Religion in the United States

Religion in the United States has a history of diversity, due in large part to the nation's multicultural demographic makeup. Among developed nations, the US is one of the most religious in terms of its demographics. According to a 2002 study by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, the US was the only developed nation in the survey where a majority of citizens reported that religion played a "very important" role in their lives, an attitude similar to that found in its neighbors in Latin America. [cite web | title =U.S. Stands Alone in its Embrace of Religion | work = Pew Global Attitudes Project | url = | accessdate = 1 January | accessyear = 2007 ]

Most U.S. adult citizens identify themselves as Christians (76.5 - 78.5%).A 2001 survey found 15% of the adult population to have no religious affiliation, still significantly less than in other postindustrial countries such as United Kingdom (44%) and Sweden (69%).cite web|url=|title=Studies on Agnostics and Atheists in Selected Countries||accessdate=2007-06-14] According to ARIS and other studies, non-Christian religions (including Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and others) collectively make up about 5.5% of the adult population.

The United States is unique amongst other post-industrial countries in that it has a relatively low percentage of people claiming to have no religious beliefs. But the fluidity of religion in the country is high, with studies showing around half of American adults leave the faith tradition of their upbringing to either switch allegiances or abandon religious affiliation altogether. [cite web|url=|title=Survey: Americans switching faiths, dropping out||accessdate=2008-02-26] [ [ The competitive world of religion] ] There are also stark regional differences within the United States with respect to a belief in God. Only 59% of Americans living in Western states confess a belief in God, yet in the South (the "Bible Belt") the figure is as high as 86%. []

Several of the original Thirteen Colonies were established by English settlers who wished to practice their own religion without discrimination: Pennsylvania was established by Quakers, Maryland by Roman Catholics and the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Puritans. Nine of the thirteen colonies had official public religions. Yet by the time of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, the United States became one of the first countries in the world to enact freedom of religion by way of a separation of church and state. Modeling the provisions concerning religion within the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the framers of the United States Constitution rejected any religious test for office, and the First Amendment specifically denied the central government any power to enact any law respecting either an establishment of religion, or prohibiting its free exercise. Soon after, the animating spirit behind the constitution's Establishment Clause led to the disestablishment of the official religions of the colonies. The framers were mainly influenced by secular, Enlightenment ideals, but they also considered the pragmatic concerns of minority religious groups who did not want to be under the power or influence of a state religion that did not represent them. [Marsden, George M. 1990. "Religion and American Culture." Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, pp.45-46.] See:History of religion in the United States

Main religious preferences of Americans

According to the CIA, the following is the order of religious preferences in the United States:
*Christian: (78.5%)
** Protestant (51.3%)
** Roman Catholic (23.9%)
** Mormon (1.7%)
** other Christian (1.6%)
* unaffiliated (12.1%)
* none (4%)
* other or unspecified (2.5%)
* Jewish (1.7%)
* Buddhist (0.7%)
* Muslim (0.6%)


The largest religion in the US is Christianity, practiced by the majority of the population (nearly 76.5% in 2001). Roughly 51.3% of Americans are Protestants, 23.9% are Catholics, and 1.7% are Mormons (the name commonly used to refer to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and 1.6% to various other Christian denominations. [cite news |title= US religious identity is rapidly changing|url= Boston Globe] Christianity was introduced during the period of European colonization.

The French, Spanish, Irish and Italians brought Catholicism, while Northern European peoples introduced Protestantism. Among Protestants, adherents to Anglicanism, Baptism, Calvinism, Puritanism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, Quakerism, Amish and Moravian Church were the first to settle to the US spreading their faith in the new country. Greek, Russian, Central and Eastern European, and Middle Eastern immigrants brought Eastern Orthodoxy to the United States. These branches of Christianity have since spread beyond the boundaries of ethnic immigrant communities and now include multi-ethnic membership and parishes.

Since then, American Christians developed in their own path. During the Great Awakenings interdenominational evangelicalism, Pentecostalism and Christian fundamentalism emerged, along with new Protestant denominations such as Adventism, and new branches of Restorationism, particularly Jehovah's Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also commonly referred to as Mormonism. Today, with 16.6 million adherents (5.3% of the total population), Southern Baptist is the largest of more than 200Harvnb|Gaustad|1962.] distinctly named Protestant denominations. [] Of the total population, Evangelicals comprise 26.3%, and Mainline Protestants 16%. [ [ Microsoft Word - Religious Landscape 2004.doc ] ] The strength of various sects varies greatly in different regions of the country, with rural parts of the South (except Louisiana and the Hispanic community, which both consist mainly of Catholics), having many evangelicals but very few Catholics, while urbanized areas of the north Atlantic states and Great Lakes, as well as many industrial and mining towns, are heavily Catholic, though still quite mixed. Mormons are predominant in Utah, and are present in significant numbers in neighboring states [cite web
title=Largest Latter-day Saint Communities (Mormon/Church of Jesus Christ Statistics)
] .

Despite its status as the most widespread and influential religion of the US, Christianity is undergoing a continuous relative decline in demographics. While the absolute number of Christians rose from 1990 to 2001, the Christian percentage of the population dropped from 88.3% to 76.5%.

No religion

A 2001 survey directed by Dr. Ariela Keysar for the City University of New York indicated that, amongst the more than 100 categories of response, "no religious identification" had the greatest increase in population in both absolute and percentage terms. This category included atheists, agnostics, humanists, and others with no theistic religious beliefs or practices. Figures are up from 14.3 million in 1990 to 29.4 million in 2001, representing a proportionate increase from 8% of the total in 1990 to over 14% in 2001.

The September 11 attacks in the U.S., a spate of religiously inspired bombings in Europe, and the emergence of organized campaigns by Christian fundamentalist groups against evolution and abortion have been cited as reasons for a continued increase in the number of individuals questioning mainstream religion and abandoning it altogether. [ [ European atheists now more vocal, Washington Post] ]

University of Minnesota researchers, in a nationwide 2006 poll found that despite an increasing acceptance of religious diversity, atheists were generally distrusted by other Americans, who rated them below Muslims, recent immigrants and other minority groups in "sharing their vision of American society". They also associated atheists with undesirable attributes such as criminal behavior, rampant materialism, and cultural elitism. [ [ "Atheists Are Distrusted"] . (May 3, 2006). Retrieved September 13, 2008.] See: Discrimination against atheists#United_States


After Christianity and no-religion, Judaism is the third-largest religious preference in the US.Jews have been present in the US since the 17th century, though large scale immigration did not take place until the 19th century, largely as a result of persecutions in parts of Eastern Europe.The CIA Fact Book estimates 1%cite web|title=CIA Fact Book |url=
publisher=CIA World Fact Book|date=2002 |accessdate=2007-12-30
] of Americans belong to this group. Approximately 25% of this population lives in New York City. [cite web |title=Jewish Community Study of New York |publisher=United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York |date=2002 |url= |format=PDF |accessdate=2008-03-22]

A significant number of people identify themselves as American Jews on ethnic and cultural grounds, rather than religious ones.The 2001 ARIS study projected from its sample that there are about 5.3 million adults in the American Jewish population: 2.83 million adults (1.4% of the U.S. adult population) are estimated to be adherents of Judaism; 1.08 million are estimated to be adherents of no religion; and 1.36 million are estimated to be adherents of a religion other than Judaism. cite web |url=

According to the 2001 National Jewish Population Survey,cite web |url= |title=2001 National Jewish Population Survey] 4.3 million American Jews have some sort of strong connection to the Jewish community, whether religious or cultural. Jewishness is generally considered an ethnic identity as well as a religious oneFact|date=February 2008. Among the 4.3 million American Jews described as "strongly connected" to Judaism, over 80% have some sort of active engagement with Judaism, ranging from attendance at daily prayer services on one end of the spectrum to as little as attending Passover Seders or lighting Hanukkah candles on the other. Of these 4.3 million strongly connected Jews, 46% belong to a synagogue. Among those who belong to a synagogue, 38% are members of Reform synagogues, 33% Conservative, 22% Orthodox, 2% Reconstructionist, and 5% other types. The survey also discovered that Jews in the Northeast and Midwest are generally more observant than Jews in the South or West. Reflecting a trend also observed among other religious groups, Jews in the Northwestern United States are typically the least observant.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend of secular American Jews, called baalei teshuva ("returners", see also Repentance in Judaism), returning to a more religious, in most cases, Orthodox, style of observance. It is uncertain how widespread or demographically important this movement is at present.


Buddhism entered the US during the 19th century with the arrival of the first immigrants from Eastern Asia. The first Buddhist temple was established in San Francisco in 1853 by Chinese Americans.

During the late 19th century Buddhist missionaries from Japan came to the US. Simultaneously to these processes, US intellectuals started to take interest in Buddhism.

The first prominent US citizen to publicly convert to Buddhism was Henry Steel Olcott. An event that contributed to strengthen Buddhism in the US was the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1893, which was attended by many Buddhist delegates sent from China, Japan, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

The early 20th century was characterized by a continuation of the tendencies with roots in the 19th century. The second half, by contrast, saw the emergence of new approaches, and the move of Buddhism into the mainstream making itself a mass and social religious phenomenon.

Many foreign associations and teachers - such as Soka Gakkai and Tenzin Gyatso the 14th Dalai Lama (for Tibetan Buddhism) - started to organize missionary activities, while US converts established the first Western-based Buddhist institutions, temples and worship groups.

Estimates of the number of Buddhists in the United States vary between 0.5% and 0.9% [ [ Religious Freedom Page ] ] .


The history of Islam in the US starts in the early 16th century with the confirmed arrival of Muslim explorer and sailor Estevanico of Azamor [cite news |title= Reclaiming Our Heritage as Muslims And Americans|url=
publisher=CI|date=2004-09-24 |accessdate=2007-12-30
] and early Muslim visitors. [Queen, Edward L., Stephen Prothero and Gardiner H. Shattuck Jr. 1996. "The Encyclopedia of American Religious History." New York: Facts on File.] Once very small, the Muslim population has increased greatly in the last one hundred years. There is much controversy over recent estimates of the Muslim population in the US. Much of the growth has been driven by immigration and conversion.

Up to one-third of American Muslims are African Americans who have converted to Islam during the last seventy years, most of whom first joined the Nation of Islam, though many later transitioned into mainstream Sunnism. []

Research indicates that Muslims in the US are generally more assimilated and prosperous than Muslims in Europe. [ [ Zogby phone survey] ] [cite web|url =|title=America's Muslims after 9/11|publisher = Voice of America] Surveys also suggest, however, that they are less assimilated than other American subcultural and religious communities. [ [ Study suggests Muslims in America more mainstream than in Europe ] ] There are many Islamic political and charity organizations supporting this community.

Muslim immigration is rising as in 2005 alone more people from Islamic countries became legal permanent US residents than in any year in the previous two decades. [ [ Muslim immigration has bounced back] ] [ [ Migration Information Source - The People Perceived as a Threat to Security: Arab Americans Since September 11] ] The number of Muslims in the US is controversial. The highest, generally-accepted estimate of Muslims (including children) in the United States is 2.35 million (0.6% of the total population). [] [ [ Pew Research Center: Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream] ] Some sources mention estimates as high as 6-7 million. [citation |author=Ilyas Ba-Yunus |title=Muslim of Illinois: A Demographic Report |quote=William B. Milam the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan states that there are seven million Muslims in America |publisher=East-West University |location=Chicago |year=1997 |pages=p 9] [] Such estimates were accepted by media for some time, but any empirical basis for these higher numbers is not documented. [ [ Muslim Statistics for the U.S. / Number of Muslims in America] ] [cite web |url= |title=Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States |first=Tom W. |last=Smith |accessdate=2008-07-11]


The first time Hinduism entered the US is not clearly identifiable. However, large groups of Hindus immigrated from India and other Asian countries since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. During the 1960s and 1970s Hinduism exercised fascination contributing to the development of New Age thought. During the same decades the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (a Vaishnavite Hindu reform organization) was founded in the US.

At present, estimates for Hindus in the US suggest they number nearly 800 thousand people or about 0.4% of the total population] .

Hindu religion is growing in the US, not only thanks to immigration but also due many Western converts. Hinduism is expanding in popularity and influence on the public life. [ [ Baptist Press - Hinduism influence on the rise - News with a Christian Perspective ] ] In 2004 the Hindu American Foundation - a national institution spreading the religion and protecting rights the Hindu community of US - was founded.

Hindu temples are flourishing in the US and in July 2007, Rajan Zed, a prominent Hindu chaplain, opened United States Senate in Washington DC with a Hindu prayer for the first time in its 218 years history. [ [ Hindu Prayer Will Open Senate Session in July - 06/26/2007 ] ] The event has been criticized and disrupted [] by many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians.

Unitarian Universalism

Unitarian Universalism (UUism) came into existence as a unique religion when the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) was founded in 1961 as a consolidation of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church in America. Unitarian Universalism is a theologically liberal religious movement characterized by its support of a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning." Unitarian Universalism is a covenantal religion. Members do not share a creed; rather they are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth. Unitarian Universalists draw on many different sources and have a wide range of beliefs and practices.

Being historically derived from Unitarianism and Universalism, Unitarian Universalism traces its roots to Christian Protestantism, however, the theological significance of both Unitarianism and Universalism had significantly expanded beyond the traditional understanding prior to their decision to combine their efforts at the continental level as Unitarian Universalists. Many UUs appreciate and value aspects of Islamic, Christian and Jewish spirituality, but the extent to which the elements of any particular faith tradition are incorporated into one's personal spiritual practices is a matter of personal choice in keeping with Unitarian Universalism's creedless, non-dogmatic approach to spirituality and faith development.

As a result of these historical roots, Unitarian Universalist congregations and fellowships tend to retain some Christian traditions such as Sunday worship that includes a sermon and singing of hymns, despite the fact that they do not necessarily identify themselves as Christians.

According to the 2007 survey published by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life .3% of U.S. adults or approximately 340,000 individuals identified themselves as Unitarian Universalist. [ [] U.S. Religious Landscape Survey ]

Native American religious practice

No particular religion or religious tradition is hegemonic among Native Americans in the United States. Most self-identifying and federally recognized Native Americans claim adherence to some form of Christianity, some of these being cultural and religious syntheses unique to the particular tribe.fact|date=August 2008 Traditional Native American spiritual rites and ceremonies are maintained by many Americans of both Native and non-Native identity.fact|date=August 2008 These spiritualities may accompany adherence to another faith, or can represent a person's primary religious identity. While much Native American spiritualism exists in a tribal-cultural continuum, and as such cannot be easily separated from tribal identity itself, certain other more clearly-defined movements have arisen within "Trad" Native American practitioners, these being identifiable as "religions" in the clinical sense.clarifyme The Midewiwin Lodge is a traditional medicine society inspired by the oral traditions and prophesies of the Ojibwa (Chippewa) and related tribes. Traditional practices include the burning of sacred herbs (tobacco, sweetgrass, sage, etc.), the sweatlodge, fasting (paramount in "vision quests"), singing and drumming, and the smoking of natural tobacco in a pipe. A practitioner of Native American spiritualities and religions may incorporate all, some or none of these into their personal or tribal rituals.

Another significant religious body among Native peoples is known as the Native American Church. It is a syncretistic church incorporating elements of native spiritual practice from a number of different tribes as well as symbolic elements from Christianity. Its main rite is the peyote ceremony. Prior to 1890, traditional religious beliefs included Wakan Tanka. In the American Southwest, especially New Mexico, a syncretism between the Catholicism brought by Spanish missionaries and the native religion is common; the religious drums, chants, and dances of the Pueblo people are regularly part of Masses at Santa Fe's Saint Francis Cathedral. [ [ A Brief History of the Native American Church] by Jay Fikes. URL accessed on February 22, 2006.] Native American-Catholic syncretism is also found elsewhere in the United States. (e.g., the National Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine in Fonda, New York and the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York).

Native Americans are the only known ethnic group in the United States requiring a federal permit to practice their religion.fact|date=August 2008 The eagle feather law, (Title 50 Part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations), stipulates that only individuals of certifiable Native American ancestry enrolled in a federally recognized tribe are legally authorized to obtain eagle feathers for religious or spiritual use. Native Americans and non-Native Americans frequently contest the value and validity of the eagle feather law, charging that the law is laden with discriminatory racial preferences and infringes on tribal sovereignty. The law does not allow Native Americans to give eagle feathers to non-Native Americans, a common modern and traditional practice. Many non-Native Americans have been adopted into Native American families, made tribal members and given eagle feathers.


Many other religions are represented in the United States, including Sikhism, Jainism, Shintoism, Taoism, Caodaism, the Bahá'í Faith, Heathenism, Neopaganism, and many forms of New Age spirituality.

Denominations and sects founded in the U.S.

* Episcopal Church in the United States - founded as an offshoot of the Church of England; now the United States branch of the Anglican Communion
* United Church of Christ - descended from Congregationalist churches of New England; formed in 1957 as a united and uniting church from a union of the Congregational Christian Church and Evangelical and Reformed Church
* Churches of Christ/Disciples of Christ - a restoration movement with no governing body. The Restoration Movement solidified as a historical phenomenon in 1832 when restorationists from two major movements championed by Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell merged (referred to as the "Stone-Campbell Movement").
* Pentecostalism - movement which emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit, finds its historic roots in the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, from 1904 to 1906, sparked by Charles Parham
* Adventism - began as an inter-denominational movement. Its most vocal leader was William Miller, who in the 1830s in New York became convinced of an imminent Second Coming of Jesus.
* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) - founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1830 in New York. Now headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
* Jehovah's Witnesses - originated with the religious movement known as Bible Students, which was founded in Pennsylvania in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell.
* Scientology - founded by L. Ron Hubbard
* Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Baptist group in the world and the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. In 1995, it renounced its 1845 origins in the defense of slavery and racial superiority.
* Unitarian Universalism - a theologically liberal religious movement founded in 1961 from the union of the well established Unitarian and Universalist churches.
* Christian Science - founded by Mary Baker Eddy

Belief in God

The phrase "In God We Trust" first appeared on a U.S. coin on the 2-cent piece of 1864, and has been on all coins and paper bills since 1957. It was declared the national motto by Congress in 1956. The one dollar Federal Reserve Note of October 1957 was the first U.S. paper money with the motto. [Deisher, Beth and William Gibbs, eds., "Coin World Almanac," Sidney, Ohio: Amos Press, 2000. ] The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance was modified in 1954 to add the phrase "under God". Various polls have been conducted to determine Americans' actual beliefs regarding God:

*A 2006 online Harris Poll of 2,010 U.S. adults (18 and older) [cite web |title=The Harris Poll #80 |date=2006-10-31 |work=Harris Interactive |url= |accessdate=2007-12-25 ] found that 73% of those surveyed said that they believed in a God, 11% said they believed there was no God, and 16% said that they were not sure whether or not there was a God. The believers in God included 58% of respondents who said they were "absolutely certain", and 15% who said they were "somewhat certain" that there is a God. The believers in no God included 6% who were "absolutely certain", and 6% who were "somewhat certain" that there is no God. About 29% believed that God "controls what happens on Earth", while a plurality (44%) believed that God "observes but does not control what happens on Earth". The poll also showed that an "absolute certain" belief in God is correlated to age: only 43%-45% of those aged 18-29 were "absolutely certain" that God exists, while 54% of those aged 30-39 were "absolutely certain" that God exists, and 63%-65% of those aged 40 and older were "absolutely certain" that God exists.

*A 2006 CBS News Poll of 899 U.S. adults found that 82% of those surveyed believed in God, while 9% believed in "some other universal spirit or higher power," 8% believed in neither, and 1% were unsure.

*A 2004 Newsweek Poll of 1,009 U.S. adults, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, found that 82% of those surveyed believed that Jesus was God or the Son of God.

*A 2000 Newsweek Poll of 752 U.S. adults, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, found that 94% of those surveyed believed in God, while 4% did not and 2% were unsure.

*A 1998 Harris Poll of 1,011 U.S. adults found that 94% of those surveyed believed in God.

Church attendance

Gallup International indicates that 41%cite web |url= |title=How many people go regularly to weekly religious services? |publisher=Religious Tolerance website] of American citizens report they regularly attend religious services, compared to 15% of French citizens, 10% of UK citizens,cite news | title = 'One in 10' attends church weekly | url = | publisher = BBC News | date = 3 April 2007 | accessdate =2007-08-01 ] and 7.5% of Australian citizens. [ [ NCLS releases latest estimates of church attendance] , National Church Life Survey, Media release, 28 February 2004]

However, these numbers are open to dispute. states::"Church attendance data in the U.S. has been checked against actual values using two different techniques. The true figures show that only about 21% of Americans and 10% of Canadians actually go to church one or more times a week. Many Americans and Canadians tell pollsters that they have gone to church even though they have not. Whether this happens in other countries, with different cultures, is difficult to predict."

In, a 2006 online Harris Poll of 2,010 U.S. adults (18 and older) found that only 26% of those surveyed attended religious services "every week or more often," 9% went "once or twice a month" 21% went "a few times a year," 3% went "once a year," 22% went "less than once a year," and 18% never attend religious services. An identical survey by Harris in 2003 found that only 26% of those surveyed attended religious services "every week or more often," 11% went "once or twice a month" 19% went "a few times a year," 4% went "once a year," 16% went "less than once a year," and 25% never attend religious services.

Religion and politics

Politicians frequently discuss their religion when campaigning, and many churches and religious figures are highly politically active. However, to keep their status as tax-exempt organizations they must not officially endorse a candidate. There are Christians in both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, but evangelical Christians tend to support the Republican Party whereas more liberal Christians and secular voters tend to support the Democratic Party.

Every President, with the exception of John F. Kennedy (a Roman Catholic), was raised in a family with affiliations with Protestant Christianity. However, many presidents have themselves had only a nominal affiliation with Protestant churches. Several early holders of the office were Deists, with at least four presidents being Unitarians, and several, such as Thomas Jefferson, having no formal affiliation.

Only three presidential candidates for major parties have been Catholics [cite web | title = History of Catholic presidential nominees | work = | url = | accessdate = 1 January | accessyear = 2007 ] , all for the Democratic party:

*Alfred E. Smith -- Smith, the Governor of New York, secured the Democratic presidential nomination in 1928. A contributing factor to Smith's defeat in the presidential election of 1928 was his Roman Catholic faith.
*John F. Kennedy -- Kennedy, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, secured the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960. In the 1960 election, John F. Kennedy faced accusations that as a Roman Catholic President he would do as the pope would tell him to do, a charge that Kennedy managed to subdue considerably.
*John Kerry -- Kerry, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, secured the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. In the 2004 election, there was discussion about whether Kerry's beliefs as a Catholic would be relevant to the national debate on abortion, but there was no implication that his being a Roman Catholic "per se" made him an undesirable candidate among pro-choice voters. Kerry himself was pro-choice, while the Catholic church staunchly opposes abortion.

There has never been a Jewish President or Vice-President. The only Jewish major party candidate for either of those offices was Joe Lieberman in the Gore-Lieberman campaign of 2000, during which Lieberman's Orthodox Judaic faith was not an issue. Some sources indicate that Jews constitute only 1.4% of the U.S. population, although others indicate that Jews comprise as much as 2.1% of the population (a significant decline from over 3% in the 1950s, chiefly due to the relatively low birthrate among Jewish Americans and high rates of out-marriage to non-Jews).

In the 2004 Presidential election, George W. Bush, a Methodist, earned a slim victory over John Kerry, with voters who cited "moral values" (a commonly used term among religiously-inclined voters) playing a crucial part in the election [ [ Exit poll - Decision 2004 - ] ] .

In 2007, the first Hindu prayer was recited in the United States Senate by Hindu chaplain Rajan Zed.A Gallup Poll released in 2007 [cite web
title=Some Americans Reluctant to Vote for Mormon, 72-Year-Old Presidential Candidates. Strong support for black, women, Catholic candidates
publisher=Gallup News Service
author=Jeffrey M. Jones
] indicates that 53% of Americans would refuse to vote for an atheist as president, up from 48% in 1987 and 1999.

Religious bodies

The table below is based mainly on selected data as reported to the United States Census Bureau. It only includes the voluntary self-reported membership of religious bodies with 60,000 or more. The definition of a member is determined by each religious body. A growing sector of the population, currently 14%, does not identify itself as a member of any religion.( [ [] tables 67-69] )

ARIS findings

The United States government does not collect religious data in its census. The survey below, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2001, was a random digit-dialed telephone survey of 50,281 American residential households in the continental United States. The 1990 sample size was 113,723.

Adult respondents were asked the open-ended question, "What is your religion, if any?". Interviewers did not prompt or offer a suggested list of potential answers. The religion of the spouse or partner was also asked. If the initial answer was "Protestant" or "Christian" further questions were asked to probe which particular denomination. About one third of the sample was asked more detailed demographic questions.

Self-Described Religious Identification of U.S. Adult Population: 1990 and 2001 cite web |url= |title=American Religious Identification Survey |format=HTML |accessdate=2007-12-25
cite web |url= |title=American Identification Survey, 2001 |publisher=The Graduate Center of the City University of New York |date=2001-12-19|author=Kosmin, Mayer & Keysar|format=PDF|accessdate=2007-12-25]

All figures after adjusting for refusals to reply, which jumped from 2.3% in 1990 to 5.4% in 2001

Key findings: [] (Not adjusted for increase in refusals to reply)
* the proportion of the population that can be classified as Christian has declined from 86% in 1990 to 77% in 2001;
* although the number of adults who classify themselves in non-Christian religious groups has increased from about 5.8 million to about 7.7 million, the proportion of non-Christians has increased only by a very small amount - from 3.3% to about 3.7%;
* the greatest increase in absolute as well as in percentage terms has been among those adults who do not subscribe to any religious identification; their number has more than doubled from 14.3 million in 1990 to 29.4 million in 2001; their proportion has grown from just 8% of the total in 1990 to over 14% in 2001;
* there has also been a substantial increase in the number of adults who refused to reply to the question about their religious preference, from about four million or 2% in 1990 to more than eleven million or over 5% in 2001.

Other key findings:
* Nearly 20% of adults who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic also report that either they themselves or someone else in their household is a member of a church, temple, synagogue, mosque or some other religious institution.
* On the other hand, nearly 40% of respondents who identified with a religion indicated that neither they themselves nor anyone else in their household belongs to a church or some other similar institution.
*Despite the growing diversity nationally, some religious groups clearly occupy a dominant demographic position in particular states. For instance, Catholics are the majority of the population in Massachusetts and Rhode Island as are Mormons in Utah and Baptists in Mississippi. Catholics comprise over 40% of Vermont, New Mexico, New York and New Jersey, while Baptists are over 40% in a number of southern states such as South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia.
* Historical traces of a Bible Belt in the South and a less religious West are still evident. Those with "no religion" constitute the largest "denomination" in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming. In contrast, the percentage of adults who adhere to "no religion" is below 10% in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
* Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and those with no religion continue to have a greater preference for the Democratic party over the Republican - much as they did in 1990. Evangelical or Born Again Christians and Mormons are the most apt to identify as Republicans. Buddhists and those with no religion are most likely to be political independents. In keeping with their theology, Jehovah's Witnesses disavow political involvement. Catholics, who at one point dominated the major eastern cities following immigration, formerly favored the Democratic Party, but after a century as the largest single religious group are now split roughly 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans.
* In both the 1990 and 2001 studies, the Buddhist and Muslim population appears to have the highest proportion of young adults under age thirty, and the lowest percentage of females. A number of the major Christian groups have aged since 1990, most notably the Catholics, Methodists, and Lutherans. Congregationalist/United Church of Christ and Presbyterian adherents show an older age str* ARIS2001 found that of all households that contained either a married or domestic partner couple, 22% reported a mixture of religious identification amongst the couple. At the low end there are the Mormon adults who are found in mixed religion families at 12% and such other groups as Baptists, those adhering to the Churches of Christ, Assemblies of God, the Evangelicals and those adhering to the Church of God (all at about 18%). At the high end we find the Episcopalians at 42% group shows the lowest incidence of marriage (just 19%) of all twenty-two groups. In sharp contrast, those identifying with the Assemblies of God or Evangelical/Born Again Christians show the highest proportions married, 73% and 74% respectively. The percent currently divorced or separated varies considerably less, from a low of six percent (Jehovah's Witnesses) to a high of fourteen percent (Pentecostals).
* The top three "gainers" in America's vast religious market place appear to be Evangelical Christians, those describing themselves as Non-Denominational Christians and those who profess no religion. Looking at patterns of religious change from this perspective, the evidence points as much to the rejection of faith as to the seeking of faith among American adults. Indeed, among those who previously had no religion, just 5% report current identification with one or another of the major religions.
* Women are more likely than men to describe their outlook as "religious." Older Americans are more likely than younger to describe their outlook as "religious." Black Americans are least likely to describe themselves as secular, Asian Americans are most likely to do so.
* 68% of those identifying themselves as Lutheran report church membership, while only 45% of those who describe themselves as Protestant (without a specific denominational identification) report church membership. Nearly 68% of those identifying with the Assemblies of God report church membership. Church membership is reported by 59% of Catholic adults. About 53% of adults who identify their religion as Jewish or Judaism report temple or synagogue membership. Among those calling themselves Muslim or Islamic, 62% report membership in a mosque.

ee also

*United States religious history
*Freedom of Religion in the United States
*Separation of church and state in the United States
*Religious affiliations of United States Presidents
*Religion in United States prisons



*citation|last=Gaustad|first=Edwin|authorlink=Edwin Gaustad|title=Historical atlas of religion in America|publisher=Harper & Row|location=New York, NY|year=1962.

External links

* CNN Article (2/25/08) on 2008 Pew Results []
* [ Religious Affiliation Underestimated in U.S., Study Shows]
* [ Map Gallery of Religion in the United States]
* U.S. Census [ links] and [ Statistical Abstract - ARIS Data - PDF & XLS (Excel)]
* [ USA - Population statistics by religion]
* [ American Religious Data Archive, collection of U.S. religious demographics]
* [ Is America Too Damn Religious?] -- from NPR.

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