The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released the results of a detailed new study of the religious affiliation of the American public. The results reveal that the United States is on the verge of becoming a minority Protestant country, that one-third of Americans who were raised Catholic no longer identify themselves as such, and that the outflow of these Catholics is stabilized by Catholic immigrants.
The survey also shows that a significant number of Americans change their religious denomination over their lifetimes.
"We hope that the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey will contribute to a better understanding of the important role that religion plays in the personal and public lives of most Americans," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum, in a press release.
The survey, based on interviews in English and Spanish of 35,000 adults, found that more than a quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood. Including changes between Protestant affiliations, 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliation, moved from no affiliation to affiliation with a particular faith, or dropped any affiliation to a specific religious tradition.
Though the Catholic proportion of the population has held steady at one fourth of the U.S. population, approximately one-third of the survey respondents who were raised Catholic no longer describe themselves as Catholic. According to the Pew Forum report, this means around ten percent of all Americans are former Catholics.
Though converts have offset some of the numbers of Catholics who have left the Church, the disproportionately high number of Catholics among immigrants is most responsible for keeping the Catholic population stable. Latinos now account for 45 percent of American Catholics aged 18-29.
The decline of the country’s Protestant majority is another surprising result from the survey.
“The U.S. is on the verge of becoming a minority Protestant country. The number of Americans who are affiliated with Protestant denominations now stands at barely over 51%; as recently as the mid-1980s, in contrast, surveys found that approximately two-thirds of the population was Protestant,” according to the Pew Forum.