From May 8 to August 13, 2007 the Pew Forum conducted a nationwide survey of 35,000 adults to put together the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Survey. The Pew Forum website lays out the data in all sorts of fun interactive ways. You can view the overall results, you can select a single religion and view the demographic characteristics of the faith, you can compare key characteristics of the faiths, and my favorite, you can bring up a map of the United States and it will show you each state’s population for different faiths.
I found the results shocking. I know that Christianity is the dominant faith in the U.S., but I was not prepared to see that Jewish (which included Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Other) accounted for only 1.7%. I find that really hard to believe. Even harder for me to wrap my brain around is Muslim, what I thought was a fairly widely found faith, made up only 0.6%, and that includes Sunni, Shia, and Other! The map function seemed like a function in stereotyping. The bulk of the Jewish population is to be found in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Florida…you know, where Jews go when they retire. Just like the south was the heart of the spreading Evangelical movement and Mormons are all in Utah. Does our nation really conform to what I was thought were terrible stereotypes? According to Pew, yes, yes it does.
Aside from rocking my world, what is the purpose of the Pew Forum survey? Well, there is much to be learned from the data collected, such as religious trends in our country, cultural influence, etc. For instance, the survey shows that our younger citizens are turning away from the religious beliefs of their parents. “The survey finds that the number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.”
Some other interesting tidbits from the report:
~Men are significantly more likely than women to claim no religious affiliation. Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13% of women.
~The Midwest most closely resembles the religious makeup of the overall population.
~In sharp contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism.
~Of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States, black Americans are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation. Even among those blacks who are unaffiliated, three-in-four belong to the "religious unaffiliated" category (that is, they say that religion is either somewhat or very important in their lives), compared with slightly more than one-third of the unaffiliated population overall.
If you find yourself with a little time, I encourage you to visit the site and view some of the survey and play with some of the neat features. It’s an eye-opening experience.