Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Religion in America: An Overview

In preparation for tomorrow's post (don't you just love the way I keep you coming back over and over again just like a quackopractor?), here's a quick-and-dirty (oops!) overview of religion in the USA, according to Wikipedia:  83 % of Americans claim to belong to a religion.  60% to 76% of Americans (we'll use 68%, the average, to make everything add up properly) identify themselves as Christians, approximately 46% Protestant and 22% Catholic (both adjusted to add up to 68% total).  Non-Christian religions make up about 3.9% to 5.5% (we'll use 4.7%) of the adult population.  15% to 37.3% (average 26%) of the adult population identifies as having no religious belief or affiliation.  5.2% refuse to reply.  Now, let's downward adjust the last three groups in a similar ratio to the Christians, to 4.2%, 23%, and 4.7%, respectively.  Total: 99.9%, not bad for seven years of college.  However, despite this seemingly high level of religiosity, only 9% of Americans in a 2008 poll said religion was the most important thing in their life, compared with 45% who said family was paramount in their life and 17% who said money and their career was paramount (this is the USA, after all!).  Incidentally, as of 2008, 1.7% were Mormon.  Today, Of the total population of Protestants, Evangelicals comprise 26.3%, and Mainline Protestants 16%.  As an aside, in a 2006 nationwide poll, U of Minnesota researchers found that despite an increasing acceptance of religious diversity, atheists were generally distrusted by other Americans, who rated them below Muslims, recent immigrants and other minority groups in "sharing their vision of American society".  They also associated atheists with undesirable attributes such as criminal behaviour, rampant materialism, and cultural elitism.  However, the same study also reported that "The researchers also found acceptance or rejection of atheists is related not only to personal religiosity, but also to one's exposure to diversity, education and political orientation - with more educated, East and West Coast Americans more accepting of atheists than their Midwestern counterparts."  For all the bible-thumping that goes on in the U.S., the founding fathers were very careful - even adamant - to leave religion out of U.S. officialdom, and this ban was later extended to individual state governments.  (The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance was only modified in 1954 to add the phrase "under God", in order to distinguish itself from the state atheism espoused by the Soviet Union.)  A late 2009 online Harris poll of 2,303 U.S. adults (18 and older) found that "82% of adult Americans believe in God", the same number as in two earlier polls in 2005 and 2007. Another 9% said they did not believe in God, and 9% said that they were not sure. It further concluded, "Large majorities also believe in miracles (76%), heaven (75%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (73%), in angels (72%), the survival of the soul after death (71%), and in the resurrection of Jesus (70%). Less than half (45%) of adults believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution but this is more than the 40% who believe in creationism.  25% never attend religious services.  Please memorize the above, as there will be a test tomorrow.