About 20 percent of Americans have read one of the 12 Left Behind novels or megachurch pastor Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life. Nearly 50 percent have seen Mel Gibson's feature film, The Passion of the Christ. About 40 percent say that born-again or Bible-believing best describes their religious identity.

Those are some results from the new Baylor Religion Survey, one of the most comprehensive studies of religion in America. Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) released initial survey findings today.

Conventional wisdom holds that America's religious landscape has grown more secular over time. But Baylor sociologists are citing survey findings that support their long-held hunch that decades of other surveys have painted a picture of the landscape that's imprecise at best.

According to a statement from the survey's scholars: "Past survey research has tended to consistently depict Americans as a highly religious people, while some of these same surveys have shown that the percentage of Americans indicating no particular religious affiliation has doubled over the last two decades.

"Our survey reconciles any apparent contradiction. It turns out that Americans remain connected to congregations to an extent far greater than they associate with denominations or other religious labels. Also, a fair number of those who claimed 'no religion' in our sample were actually active, engaged affiliates of evangelical congregations who were 'screened out' by previous surveys that concentrated on denominational affiliation."

The survey suggests some 90 percent of Americans identify with an individual congregation or "religious family." Many of those surveyed don't see themselves as belonging to a particular denomination. ...

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