The United States, founded by dissident Protestants in search of religious freedom, is on the verge of becoming a nation in which Protestants are a minority. A growing portion of Americans identify themselves as unaffiliated with any religious tradition, and a small but increasingly significant number say they are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Orthodox Christian. In addition, a flood of overwhelmingly Catholic immigrants, mostly from Latin America, is helping to counterbalance a high dropout rate among U.S. born Catholics.
These are among the key findings of a groundbreaking study of the American religious landscape released recently by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The study, which is the most comprehensive such assessment of the country in at least a half century, finds that the United States is in the midst of a period of unprecedented religious fluidity, in which 44 percent of American adults have left the denomination of their childhood for another denomination, another faith, or no faith at all. The study is based on a survey of 35,000 Americans age 18 and over who speak one of five different languages. This is a very large number for survey research, which allowed the researchers to get more detail about minority religious groups than is usually available from smaller studies. The study is also important because the quantification of religious association in the United States is often complicated and contested; the U.S. Census does not include... [continues]
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