Select Page


January 26, 2013 by William H. Scarle, Jr.

Before leaving January it might be of interest to take a look at the demographics of religion across the United States as a whole.  Statistics, even when as accurate as possible, have only a limited reach into truth.  They can tell us what people say.  They cannot tell us what is in the heart of individuals or a nation.  However, it is of considerable value to know something about the religious landscape of the nation.

Overall the religious traditions of the United States has been classified by the latest Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life into three large categories:  Christian, other religions and  unaffiliated.   Among all adults 78.4 percent report their religion as Christian.  4.7 percent claim another religion, and 16.1 percent affirm they are unaffiliated with any religion.

Barely a majority of the population of the nation (51%) claim they are members of a Protestant denomination.  Members of Baptist churches account for one-third of all Protestants and close to one-fifth of the total U.S adult population.

The overwhelming observation of the Pew survey which was based on interviews with over 35,000 Americans age 18 and older was the fluidity of the American religious scene.  More than a fourth of American adults (28%) have left the faith of their parents for another religion.  If we include in this category those who have moved from one Protestant denomination to another the figure jumps to 44%.

Added to this movement within the religious circle 16.1 % of the population say they are unaffiliated with any faith.  This is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any faith as children.  Among American who are in the age bracket of 18-29 one in four claim no religious affiliation at all.

Roman Catholicism has experienced the greatest losses due to this pattern of change.  One third of Americans (31%) claim they were raised Catholic, fewer than one in four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic as adults.  However, the losses are largely made up by the influx of Latinos to the USA.  Latinos now account for roughly one third of Adult Catholics.

In the completion among the religious groups as to the number gained and the number lost the unaffiliated group is the biggest gainer.  People moving into this group outnumber those moving out by a three to one margin.  However, nearly 4% of the total population or half of the people who say they were unaffiliated as a child now say they are now associated with a religious group.  The unaffiliated group has grown, but they are having trouble holding on to people.  It seems the human heart still searches for God.

Moslems make up 0.6% of the US population.  Hindus make up 0.4%.  Both these groups are largely immigrant.  Buddhists make up 0.7% and are primarily native born American and only one third is of Asian background.

Protestant Evangelicals and Roman Catholics are almost equal in numbers; 26.3% and 23.9% respectively.

A more complete summary of this report is available on the web.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at