The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a landmark survey this morning. The survey represents the largest study ever done on denominational demographics in the United States. Over 35,000 people participated in the study and it apparently is able to see groups and affiliations down to 0.3%
From the summary of the report:
"While those Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion have seen the greatest growth in numbers as a result of changes in affiliation, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic. These losses would have been even more pronounced were it not for the offsetting impact of immigration. The Landscape Survey finds that among the foreign-born adult population, Catholics outnumber Protestants by nearly a two-to-one margin (46% Catholic vs. 24% Protestant); among native-born Americans, on the other hand, Protestants outnumber Catholics by an even larger margin (55% Protestant vs. 21% Catholic). Immigrants are also disproportionately represented among several world religions in the U.S., including Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
Although there are about half as many Catholics in the U.S. as Protestants, the number of Catholics nearly rivals the number of members of evangelical Protestant churches and far exceeds the number of members of both mainline Protestant churches and historically black Protestant churches. The U.S. also includes a significant number of members of the third major branch of global Christianity - Orthodoxy - whose adherents now account for 0.6% of the U.S. adult population. American Christianity also includes sizeable numbers of Mormons (1.7% of the adult population), Jehovah's Witnesses (0.7%) and other Christian groups (0.3%).
Like the other major groups, people who are unaffiliated with any particular religion (16.1%) also exhibit remarkable internal diversity. Although one-quarter of this group consists of those who describe themselves as either atheist or agnostic (1.6% and 2.4% of the adult population overall, respectively), the majority of the unaffiliated population (12.1% of the adult population overall) is made up of people who simply describe their religion as 'nothing in particular.' This group, in turn, is fairly evenly divided between the 'secular unaffiliated,' that is, those who say that religion is not important in their lives (6.3% of the adult population), and the 'religious unaffiliated,' that is, those who say that religion is either somewhat important or very important in their lives (5.8% of the overall adult population)."
Read the report here.
Just a couple of quick impressions, the report distinguishes between Episcopalians, Anglican (CoE) and Anglicans in the Mainline tradition. It's unclear what the distinctions mean in practice, though they are detailed in Appendix 2. Glancing at the data table the strongest difference seems to be the age distribution with "Anglican" skewing to the older age groups and Episcopalians to somewhat younger demographic groups.
The New York Times article on the Study is here.
The Washington Post's coverage is here. Their lede:
Forty-four percent of Americans have either switched their religious affiliation since childhood or dropped out of any formal religious group, according to the largest recent survey on American religious identification.
USA Today coverage is here.
TIME here. Christian Science Monitor here. For AFP the highlight is that Protestants are verging on becoming a minority. For the Washington Times the highlight is that Evangelicals outnumber Catholics. For Jewish Telegraphic Agency it's that Jews are wealthy, educated, and old.
What do you find most interesting in the study?
(We'll be adding to this post as we make our way through the information, but there's enough data in this study to launch a flotilla of Masters theses and Doctoral dissertations so it will probably be a while before all the implications are recognized.)