Since the terrorist attacks in France and Lebanon in late 2015, religion has become a topic of hot debate in the United States. A nation known for being a melting pot of cultures and religions, the religious demographics in the USA show that the story of this economic superpower is very different than what many may believe.
The United States is a home to more Christians than any other country in the world. More than 70% of the US population identifies with some branch of this faith.
In comparison, only 5.9% of the religious landscape of the USA is made up of non-Christian faiths. This includes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religious faiths. Yet in just one decade, the number of people who identify as Christians as dropped by almost 10 percentage points, while non-Christian faiths have only risen by 1 percentage point. The fastest growing religious demographic in the USA, therefore, are people who are choosing not to be religious.
The Christian Divide In The USA
- 25% of Christians in the United States identify themselves as evangelical protestant.
- 20% of Christians identify themselves as being Catholic.
- 14.7% of Christians see themselves as following mainline protestant beliefs.
- Baptists are the largest group of evangelical protestants, making up 15.3% of the total Christian population when African-American Baptist denominations are included in those figures.
- Mormons make up 1.6% of the Christian population.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses make up just 0.8% of the Christian population, but have seen a 10+ percentage increase in minority congregation increases in the last decade.
- Orthodox Christians make up just 0.5% of the US population.
The biggest declines being seen in US Christianity today are coming from the youth of the nation. Not only are young adults not attending church services on a regular basis, but they are choosing to remain unaffiliated with any particular faith. It is not uncommon for Millennials and other younger generations to identify themselves with components of multiple religions – if they have any religious leaning at all. 26% of Millennials say that religion is not important in their lives, compared to just 5% in the Greatest generation – those born before 1928.
Being Non-Christian In a Christian Country
- 1.9% of the US population is Jewish, which is the largest minority religious demographic in the country.
- Just 0.9% of the US population follows Islam.
- Both Hinduism and Buddhism make up 0.7% of the population respectively.
- All other remaining religions make up 0.3% of the US population: that is equal to several specific Christian denominations, such as the restorationists and Christian fundamentalists.
- Unitarians make up 1% of the US population when other liberal faiths and traditions are included.
- 3.1% of the US population identifies themselves as being atheist.
- 22.8% of the US population states that they do not follow any religion.
- 6.9% of US citizens say that religion is important to them, but they don’t follow anything in particular to have their spiritual needs met.
- Just 0.6% of the US population says they haven’t made up their minds yet when it comes to whether they should follow a religion or not.
The number of people who say that they don’t prefer a religion at all is a little misleading. If you speak with many evangelical Christians, they’ll say that they follow a faith instead of a religion, so they may very well answer that there isn’t a religious preference because they don’t see themselves following a religion. Although the non-Christian religions are seeing some small increases as people abandon the Christian faith in droves in the US, the demographics clearly show that non-Christian religion is a severe minority.
Does Religion Need to Play an Important Role?
- Although Millennials are less religious than the older generations, their views on miracles, heaven, and hell are almost equal to the older generations.
- Though young adults pray less often than their elders do today, the number of young adults who say they pray every day rivals the portion of young people who said the same in prior decades.
- The belief in God may be lower among young adults than among older adults, but Millennials say they believe in God with absolute certainty at rates similar to those seen among Gen Xers a decade ago.
- 1 in 4 Hispanics in the US state that they are former Catholics, with about half of this group becoming agnostic or unaffiliated.
- Just 25% of Americans attend a church service 3x times in any given 8 week period of time over the course of a year.
- Some people report attending church regularly, but may instead meet in small groups in homes, libraries, or coffee shops.
The idea that faith is unique to the individual may be taking hold in the USA. Instead of defining their spirituality by a denomination or a label, people are developing their own preferences that meet their own needs.
How The Religiously Active Live Each Day
- More than 55% of US citizens state that they pray every day. Another 23% say that they’ll pray at least once per month and as often as once per week.
- 21% of those who have a religious preference say that they seldom or never pray.
- 21% of those without a religious affiliation state that they pray every day.
- Older people (60%) are more likely than younger adults (45%) to say they pray daily.
- 57% of US citizens said they favored having a National Day of Prayer, while just 5% said they opposed it. More telling is the fact that 38% of respondents said they didn’t care either way.
- Women [65%] are more likely than men [46%] to pray every day.
- Only 1 in 5 people in the USA attend church on a regular basis according to attendance figures, which means half of the people who say they go to church regularly do not attend weekly.
- The average church in the US has up to a 60% level of inactive membership.
Religion is something that Americans see more as a traditional part of their upbringing. Even if someone only attends church at Easter and Christmas, they may see themselves as regularly attending church. They might never step into a church at all, but because their family was Baptist, then they see themselves as Baptist and a member of that faith. The bottom line is this: religion is important to the USA. The religious demographics of the USA prove this. It may be dominated by Christianity, but times are changing. Over the next decade, how people see God may very well become a reflection of what kind of nation the US becomes.