Americans make use of their religious freedom

The Public Religion Research Institute has released its latest snapshot of the American religious landscape with data from 2020. It shows that America is still majority Christian, and that, despite shrill voices of the most aggrieved, Americans broadly enjoy healthy religious liberty.

Overall, America is still overwhelmingly Christian. Only 5.75% of Americans practice a religion other than Christianity. The second-largest belief system is not a religion at all. More than 23% of Americans are “Nones” or religiously unaffiliated, meaning they check “None of the above” when asked to identify their faith from a list.

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The rise of the Nones has been the topic of much discussion in recent years, but this latest report shows that rise has slowed.

In fact, over the past two years, the percentage of Americans who claim no faith has declined from 25.5% to 23.3%, a steeper drop than white evangelicals in that period.

There is a clear generational trend in the data. Among Americans 65 and older, the largest religious segment is white evangelicals. Among Americans 18-29, the largest segment is Nones.

And the age groups in between show a steady transfer between the two.

White evangelicals are the oldest cohort in the nation, with an average age of 56. Non-Christians are much younger on average.

The three youngest categories are Muslims (33), Hindus (36), and Buddhists (36).

Religious minorities are small, but seem to be growing among younger generations. The nation will almost certainly be more pluralist in the next few generations than it was in the last few.

Dallas reflects this small but growing diversity. PRRI gave a religious diversity score to every county in the U.S. on a scale of 0.0 (entirely homogeneous) to 1.0 (all faiths equally represented). The national average is 0.625. Dallas County scored 0.781. Only Travis, Harris, Bexar and Fort Bend counties scored higher in Texas.

Collin County scored slightly lower on the PRRI religious diversity scale than Dallas, but Collin County is 3% Hindu, 2% Muslim, and 2% Jewish, compared to 1% for those religions in Dallas County.

All of this shows us that for all the disruption and debate among religious communities from politics and pandemic, Americans still value religious expression. And it shows us that Dallas-Fort Worth, often called the “buckle of the Bible Belt,” is also an increasingly diverse, cosmopolitan place where people of different faiths and cultures can live together peacefully.

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To us, the takeaway here is encouraging. Our Constitution protects our freedom to practice a faith, and most Americans do so. They attend prayers on Friday, synagogue on Saturday, or church on Sunday without threat of violence or discrimination. The religious makeup of our nation has certainly shifted over the course of American history. It will certainly shift in the future. But we can be encouraged that those shifts are happening under the banner of liberty and justice for all, which itself is likely one reason why faiths of all kinds do flourish here.

— The Dallas Morning News

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