Portraits of American Life Study
Hosted by The ARDA
The PALS seeks to understand the impact of religion in everyday life, and ultimately the connections between religious change and other forms of change among diverse individuals and families over the course of their lives.

Religious Affiliation

Americans are affiliated with a variety of religious traditions. In this section we put actual percentages of the total population to those varieties.

Nearly 8 out of 10 (79%) of all Americans identify with Catholicism or Protestantism. Of the remaining persons, 5% identify with other affiliated or organized religions (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu) and 16% are unaffiliated with any religion at all.



Americans are grouped into these categories with the reported percentage of the total population:

  Protestants 
   Evangelical 27%
   Mainline 14%
   Black Protestant6%
   Other Protestant4%
  Roman Catholic27%
  Jewish2%
  Muslim1%
  Hindu1%
  Buddhist1%
  Jehovah Witness1%
  Mormon<1%
  Other Affiliated<1%
  
  Subtotal84%

  Unaffiliated 
   Spiritual10%
   Don’t think about religion2%
   Agnostic3%
   Atheist1%
   Others1%

Specific Christian denominations are grouped by affiliations according to a classification scheme developed by Brian Steensland of Princeton University. Below are general definitions of the religious traditions categories:

Description of Categories

Evangelical includes denominations that are more theologically fundamentalist or conservative, such as Assembly of God, Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church of America, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. (List of Evangelical Denominations)

Mainline includes denominations that are more theologically progressive or liberal, such as the American Baptist Churches in the USA, Evangelical Lutheran, United Methodist Church, and Presbyterian Church in the USA. (List of Mainline Denominations)

Black Protestant includes the historically black denominations such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Church of God in Christ, National Baptist Convention of American, and the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

Other Protestant includes persons who described their religion as Christian but stated their Christian denomination was “Just Christian” or “Not close to any denomination or tradition” or “Other” with no further description despite prompted clarification.

Spiritual is a self-selected term often used by persons who are not involved with a religious institution but believe in God or a larger spiritual force.

Don’t Think about Religion is a term selected by persons who spend almost no time thinking about religion or to what category they belong.

Atheist is a person with no belief in God.

Agnostic is a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.




Give us your feedback!

Through out these sections, we invite you to enter the discussion about these findings and what their implications may be. Click on the COMMENT link to send your thoughts to pals@rice.edu. Where appropriate we will include comments for others to read and discuss. Names of contributors will not be posted, but, if you like, include your religious tradition.

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