More Americans say they have no religion

source: Yahoo news, March 9, 2009

A wide-ranging study on American religious life found that the Roman Catholic population
has been shifting out o of the Northeast to the Southwest, the
percentage of Christians in the nation has declined and more people say
they have no religion at all.

 

 

Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an
increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according
to the American Religious Identification Survey.

Northern New England surpassed the Pacific Northwest
as the least religious region, with Vermont reporting the highest share
of those claiming no religion, at 34 percent. Still, the study found
that the numbers of Americans with no religion rose in every state.

"No other religious bloc has kept such a pace in every state," the study's authors said.

In
the Northeast, self-identified Catholics made up 36 percent of adults
last year, down from 43 percent in 1990. At the same time, however,
Catholics grew to about one-third of the adult population in California
and Texas, and one-quarter of Floridians, largely due to Latino
immigration, according to the research.

Nationally,
Catholics remain the largest religious group, with 57 million people
saying they belong to the church. The tradition gained 11 million
followers since 1990, but its share of the population fell by about a percentage point to 25 percent.

Christians who aren't Catholic also are a declining segment of the country.

In
2008, Christians comprised 76 percent of U.S. adults, compared to about
77 percent in 2001 and about 86 percent in 1990. Researchers said the
dwindling ranks of mainline Protestants, including Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians,
largely explains the shift. Over the last seven years, mainline
Protestants dropped from just over 17 percent to 12.9 percent of the
population.

The report from The Program on Public Values at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., surveyed 54,461 adults in English or Spanish from February through November of last year. It has a margin of error
of plus or minus 0.5 percentage points. The findings are part of a
series of studies on American religion by the program that will later
look more closely at reasons behind the trends.

The
current survey, being released Monday, found traditional organized
religion playing less of a role in many lives. Thirty percent of
married couples did not have a religious wedding ceremony and 27 percent of respondents said they did not want a religious funeral.

About 12 percent of Americans believe in a higher power but not the personal God
at the core of monotheistic faiths. And, since 1990, a slightly greater
share of respondents — 1.2 percent — said they were part of new
religious movements, including Scientology, Wicca and Santeria.

The
study also found signs of a growing influence of churches that either
don't belong to a denomination or play down their membership in a
religious group.

Respondents who called themselves "non-denominational Christian"
grew from 0.1 percent in 1990 to 3.5 percent last year. Congregations
that most often use the term are megachurches considered "seeker
sensitive." They use rock style music and less structured prayer to
attract people who don't usually attend church. Researchers also found
a small increase in those who prefer being called evangelical or
born-again, rather than claim membership in a denomination.

Evangelical
or born-again Americans make up 34 percent of all American adults and
45 percent of all Christians and Catholics, the study found.
Researchers found that 18 percent of Catholics consider themselves
born-again or evangelical, and nearly 39 percent of mainline
Protestants prefer those labels. Many mainline Protestant groups are
riven by conflict over how they should interpret what the Bible says
about gay relationships, salvation and other issues.

The
percentage of Pentecostals remained mostly steady since 1990 at 3.5
percent, a surprising finding considering the dramatic spread of the
tradition worldwide. Pentecostals are known for a spirited form of
Christianity that includes speaking in tongues and a belief in modern-day miracles.

Mormon
numbers also held steady over the period at 1.4 percent of the
population, while the number of Jews who described themselves as
religiously observant continued to drop, from 1.8 percent in 1990 to
1.2 percent, or 2.7 million people, last year. Researchers plan a
broader survey on people who consider themselves culturally Jewish but
aren't religious.

The study found that
the percentage of Americans who identified themselves as Muslim grew to
0.6 percent of the population, while growth in Eastern religions such as Buddhism slightly slowed.

___

On the Net:

Survey results: http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/

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