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A race for second

A race for second

The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies conducts a U.S. Religion Census every 10 years and they have come up with maps showing the second largest religious group in the USA by state.

Washington Post:

Christianity is by far the largest religion in the United States; more than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians. A little more than half of us identify as Protestants, about 23 percent as Catholic and about 2 percent as Mormon.

But what about the rest of us? In the Western U.S., Buddhists represent the largest non-Christian religious bloc in most states. In 20 states, mostly in the Midwest and South, Islam is the largest non-Christian faith tradition. And in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast, Judaism has the most followers after Christianity. Hindus come in second place in Arizona and Delaware, and there are more practitioners of the Baha’i faith in South Carolina than anyone else.

Check out the map here.

Mark Silk at RNS says “not so fast!

How do I know this? The map comes from the 2010 U.S. Religious Census taken by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. The Religious Census is based on self-reporting by religious bodies, a means of data collection that, depending on the body, ranges from highly accurate to wildly conjectural and self-serving. It is, in the aggregate, far less accurate than large random phone surveys that ask individuals to give their religious identity.

Thus, in 2008, Pew’s Religious Landscape Study showed more than twice as many Jews as “Other World Religions” (Sikhs, Jains, and others as well as Baha’is) in South Carolina. It showed more than four times as many Jews as Hindus in Delaware, and more than twice as many Jews and twice as many Buddhists as Hindus in Arizona. It showed over six times as many Jews as Muslims in Florida and over four times as many in Illinois.

And so on. Altogether, Jews come in second in at least half the states (not 15); Muslims, in at most a dozen (not 20), and Buddhists, in the remainder (throughout most of the West). The reason for the principal discrepancy (between Jews and Muslims) is that the U.S. Religious Census relies on reports of actual synagogue membership, and many self-identified Jews don’t belong to synagogues; while the reporting Muslim bodies provide estimates of mosque membership.

Of course, if there were a race for second-place, there wouldn’t be a winner. That’s because in nearly every state the second largest religion preference is “none.”

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