Religion Remains a Powerful Force in America
Thomas Cromwell

A recently published survey of 36,000 Americans by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 92 percent believe in God or a universal spirit. Of these 71 percent say they believe in God “absolutely” and another 17 percent say they are “fairly certain” in their belief in God.

There is a growing trend for believers to switch or drop altogether their religious affiliations, with Protestantism now accounting for just 51 percent of the total population. One quarter of Americans are Catholics, the second largest group. 

In line with this trend, only 24 percent believe that theirs is the one true faith, only 33 percent believe scripture is literally the word of God, and 68 percent hold the view that their own religious scriptures are open to different interpretations. Nevertheless, 58 percent say they pray daily, and only 7 percent say they never pray.

Perhaps to be expected, people on the West and East Coasts tend to be less religious. They see religion as less important in their daily lives and they are more likely to believe religion is open to interpretation. They tend to be more liberal politically, more accepting of homosexuality and less concerned about negative influences from Hollywood.

According to the study, 78.4 percent of Americans are Christians, 5 percent belong to other faith traditions and 16.1 percent are unaffiliated with any religion. Those who are unaffiliated and secular account for 6.3 percent of the population; religious unaffiliated for 5.8 percent; atheists, 1.6 percent; and agnostics, 2.4 percent.

After Christianity, the next largest faith is Judaism, which accounts for just 1.7 percent of the population, then Buddhism, 0.7 percent, Islam, 0.6 percent, and Hinduism and New Age faiths, both 0.4 percent.

The Pew study also looks at religion and political affiliation, religion and views on homosexuality, religion and conservative versus liberal ideology, and other ways that religion impacts society.

One cannot but conclude that religion, and Christianity in particular, remains a very strong influence in America today.

For details, see:
• Pew survey results
• More in U.S. jump to new faiths, poll finds