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USA: Religion Demographics

Have you heard the U.S. is becoming less and less religious? That’s likely prompted by the following statistics you may have seen dominating news headlines. Here’s what you should know about the major changes in religious demographics in the country.

Religion is Less Important to Americans

Compared to 1965 when 70 percent of Americans considered religion to be “very important” to them, only 49 percent of Americans said the same in 2021.

Now you don’t have to just take their word for it. This comes across in their actions as well. Church attendance is also declining. While most Americans would say they have a religious preference, a much smaller proportion regularly attend religious services.

In 2021, U.S. adults were polled as to whether they had attended church, synagogue, mosque, or temple in the past seven days. An average of 29 percent of U.S. adults reported that had done so either in person or virtually.

Compared to past statistics, this was a stark decline. In 2000, 44 percent had gone to church in the past seven days while 49 percent had in 1958.

This long-term decline in church attendance can be linked to an overall drop in religious identification, specifically in Protestant religions. That said, there is also decreasing weekly attendance among U.S. Catholics.

What World Religions Are Growing?

While religion is waning in Western Europe and North America, it’s growing everywhere else. Islam is the fastest-growing population in the world, and it’s growing twice as fast as the overall global population. In fact, between 2015 and 2060, the world’s inhabitants are forecast to grow by 70 percent.

Even with this, Christians are anticipated to outgrow the general population over that period (increasing by 34 percent) due to the population growth in Africa. That said, it’s unlikely to hold onto its spot as the world’s top religion.

Where do the other religions fall? Hinduism is expected to grow by 27 percent and Judaism by 15 percent (thanks to the high birth rate among the ultra-Orthodox). Over the next few years, we’ll see an increase of the religiously unaffiliated by just 3 percent.

When it comes to these changes, the growth rate relies more on births and deaths than it does the conversion. Muslims, Christians, and Orthodox Jews have higher birth rates than the religiously unaffiliated. In the past decade or so, Christian deaths across the world have been disproportionately large, which is also impacting its growth.

RELIGIOUS ADHERENTS IN THE UNITED STATES AND THE WORLD

Largest Number of Religious Adherents in the United States : Mid-2000-2010

(Derived from the 2007 Megacensus of Religions, by David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, Peter F. Crossing, in Time Almanac, 2008 and The Global Religious Landscape A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010)

Religion2000
Number
% of Total U.S. Pop.,
2000
2010% Total U. S. Population 2010
Christianity159,030,00076.5%243,060,0078%
Unaffiliated46,960,70016.5%50,980,00016.4%
Judaism2,831,0001.3%5,699,0001.8%
Islam1,104,0000.5%2,770,000.9%
Buddhism1,082,0000.5%3,577,0001.2%
Hinduism766,0000.4%1,790,000.6%

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Impacted Attendance

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the average annual attendance fell to its lowest point on record. Due to the circumstances, this drop is understandable, but even virtual participation did not make up the difference. There was a four-percentage-point drop in U.S. attendance from 2019 to 2020, which indicates a few things.

  1. A lack of access to virtual services
  2. A lack of interest in watching them
  3. Both

Final Thoughts

Religion — regardless of whether you’re religious or practice your faith — has a huge impact on the world. Countless wars, conflicts, and political elections have correlated to religious practices. Understanding these trends can help you recognize why certain events are occurring globally.

MAJOR WORLD RELIGIONS RANKED BY NUMBER OF ADHERENTS

(The Global Religious Landscape A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010)

ReligionEst. No. AdherentsPercent of World Pop.
Christianity2.2 billion32.5 percent
Islam1.6 billion23.2 percent
Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist929 million16.3 percent
Hinduism1.0 billion15 percent
Buddhism500 million7.1 percent
Folk Religions400 million6 percent
Other Religions*58 million1 percent
Judaism14 million.20 percent

* Religions such as Baha’I, Jainism, Sikism,Taoism, Wicca, Zoroastorism.

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