2008-02-26

A snapshot of the competitive US religious marketplace

Survey: US Religious Landscape in Flux (Eric Gorski, Associated Press, 25/2/08)

The U.S. religious marketplace is extremely volatile, with nearly half of American adults leaving the faith tradition of their upbringing to either switch allegiances or abandon religious affiliation altogether, a new survey finds.

More than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another religion or no religion at all, the survey found. Factoring in moves from one stream or denomination of Protestantism to another, the number rises to 44 percent.

One in four adults ages 18 to 29 claim no affiliation with a religious institution.

The majority of the unaffiliated — 12 percent of the overall population — describe their religion as "nothing in particular," and about half of those say faith is at least somewhat important to them. Atheists or agnostics account for 4 percent of the total population.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey estimates the United States is 78 percent Christian and about to lose its status as a majority Protestant nation, at 51 percent and slipping.

The Roman Catholic Church has lost more members than any faith tradition because of affiliation swapping, the survey found. While nearly one in three Americans were raised Catholic, fewer than one in four say they're Catholic today. That means roughly 10 percent of all Americans are ex-Catholics.

The share of the population that identifies as Catholic, however, has remained fairly stable in recent decades thanks to an influx of immigrant Catholics, mostly from Latin America. Nearly half of all Catholics under 30 are Hispanic, the survey found.

On the Protestant side, changes in affiliation are swelling the ranks of nondenominational churches, while Baptist and Methodist traditions are showing net losses.

# The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: Survey on the Religious Landscape of the United States

# Download full report as a pdf file. Read in particular Chapter 2: Changes in Americans' Religious Affiliation

# Watch Pew Forum Director Luis Lugo on the key findings

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For those who are fascinated by the US religious marketplace, here are the results of another recent survey:

A recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota shows that atheists are more distrusted and despised than any other minority and that an atheist is the last person for whom Americans would vote in a presidential election. “Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians” all ranked higher than atheists in public acceptability. Furthermore, Americans are “least willing to allow their children to marry” atheists.

God, why do you make life so hard for us atheists!