The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently completed a survey in which they polled 35,000 American adults exploring religious affiliation. Some of the interesting findings included;
- Close to half of all Americans have changed religions or denominations at least once in their lifetime. This describes the fluid movement between churches and denominations. (e.g. Mainline to nondenominational, Catholic to Protestant etc)
- Christians make up 78% of the US total population. We are not going to lose our Christian identity anytime soon. The specific breakdown of the population includes 51% Protestants, 24% Catholic, 2% Jewish, 16% report they are unaffiliated!
- Of the 16% unaffiliated almost 8% report they had no religious or church upbringing!
- While immigrants do contribute to the religious diversity of the US, 70% report being Christian. (46% Catholic and 24% Protestant)
- The 30 - 49 age group make up 40% on average of all church members.
- The New Jersey religious landscape is unique from the American average in that 42% are Catholic, 30% Protestant, 6% Jewish.
Overall the survey describes the American religious landscape as "both very diverse and extremely fluid", however overall religious membership percentages have remained fairly stable over the last 30 years!
I believe that religious diversity is one of the strengths of our country. After all the United States of America was founded on religious freedom and we must maintain that principal. It distresses me when I hear someone make an offhand remark disparaging any religious tradition. Anti Semitism and anti Muslim sentiment still litters the landscape of our country! We all must remain tolerant of our difference and taken a step further we must love those different from us.
Tolerance and love also should apply to the diversity we find in our 78% Christian body as well. Catholics and Protestants, Evangelicals and Mainline Christians, liberal and conservatives must respect and love one another. Though there are many issues that divide Christians (abortion, gay rights, war, and stem cell research, etc) we must acknowledge that ultimately we are more similar than diverse: we all believe in the same God!