Religion In America Changing In A Big Way

Religion In America Changing In A Big Way

A major new survey on the religious beliefs of Americans is out, and the Public Religion Research Institute sees a “dramatic transformation” taking place across the country. Two big takeaways from the 2016 survey of 101,000 people: White Christians no longer make up a majority of Americans, with their percentage now at 43%, down from 81% in 1976; and fewer than half of US states have a majority population of white Christians. More details being emphasized:

  • No affiliation: In 20 states, people with no religious affiliation outnumber those of any single religious affiliation, with Vermont (41%), Oregon (36%), and Washington (35%) leading the way. But the Atlantic is surprised to see that Alaska and Hawaii are on this list, too: “In general, the non-religious states of America are concentrated west of the Mississippi River.”
  • Racial trend: Quartz sees one major theme: “Religion in white America is dying, while religion in non-white America is holding strong.” Expect that to continue: The religions with the highest percentage of members ages 18 to 29 are Islam (42%) and Hinduism (36%), far higher than white Catholics (11%), white evangelical Protestants (11%), and white mainline Protestants (14%).
  • Still small numbers: Non-Christian religious groups may be growing, but they still represent less than 10% of Americans. Jewish Americans are at 2%, with Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus each at 1%. All other non-Christian religions amount to another 1%.

  • Politics: USA Today notes that white Christians still make up nearly three-quarters of the GOP. In contrast, they constitute less than one-third of Democrats, down from about half 10 years ago. Both parties face big challenges with the religious shift taking place, and FiveThirtyEight looks at the challenges for both. For example, Democrats have an increasingly varied base, which means they must craft a message that appeals to all, including those with no affiliation.
  • Mississippi: The PRRI summary calls this state the least diverse in the nation in terms of religion. Mississippi is mostly Protestant, and six in 10 of those Protestants are Baptist. New York is the state with the most diversity.
  • Bottom line: “The future of religion in America is young, non-Christian, and technicolor,” sums up Religion News Service. It finds the decline in American evangelicals, a group previously immune from falling numbers, particularly striking. About 17% of Americans are white evangelical Protestant, down from 23% in 2006.


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