Americas

The Problem with Counting Christians

Pew's new Religious Landscape Survey is helpful, but the maps are fuzzier than you might expect.

The new U.S. Religious Landscape Survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life renders familiar territory remarkable. This poll of more than 35,000 American adults has produced a map of population centers (major religious traditions), the boundaries that separate them, and the thoroughfares that connect them. Among the highlights of the latest findings:

  • Close to half (44 percent) of all Americans have changed religions or denominations at least once in their lifetimes.

  • Protestants now make up just 51 percent of the population, though the total Christian population remains as high as 78 percent.

  • Some 16 percent of American adults describe themselves as religiously "unaffiliated," more than twice the percentage who say they had no religious upbringing.

  • In addition to contributing to religious diversity, immigration also augments the country's church rolls, as 46 percent of foreign-born adults claim Catholic identity and 24 percent claim Protestant identity.

The survey's topline summary ...

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