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>Population Tables For The Largest Religions

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The following three tables comes from the NSRI and ARIS data:

Top Twenty Religions in the United States, 2001
(self-identification, ARIS)

Religion 1990 Est.
Adult Pop.
2001 Est.
ADULT Pop.
2004 Est.
Total Pop.
% of U.S. Pop.,
2000
% Change
1990 – 2000
Christianity 151,225,000 159,030,000 224,437,959 76.5% +5%
Nonreligious/Secular 13,116,000 27,539,000 38,865,604 13.2% +110%
Judaism 3,137,000 2,831,000 3,995,371 1.3% -10%
Islam 527,000 1,104,000 1,558,068 0.5% +109%
Buddhism 401,000 1,082,000 1,527,019 0.5% +170%
Agnostic 1,186,000 991,000 1,398,592 0.5% -16%
Atheist 902,000 1,272,986 0.4%
Hinduism 227,000 766,000 1,081,051 0.4% +237%
Unitarian Universalist 502,000 629,000 887,703 0.3% +25%
Wiccan/Pagan/Druid 307,000 433,267 0.1%
Spiritualist 116,000 163,710 0.05%
Native American Religion 47,000 103,000 145,363 0.05% +119%
Baha’i 28,000 84,000 118,549 0.04% +200%
New Age 20,000 68,000 95,968 0.03% +240%
Sikhism 13,000 57,000 80,444 0.03% +338%
Scientology 45,000 55,000 77,621 0.02% +22%
Humanist 29,000 49,000 69,153 0.02% +69%
Deity (Deist) 6,000 49,000 69,153 0.02% +717%
Taoist 23,000 40,000 56,452 0.02% +74%
Eckankar 18,000 26,000 36,694 0.01% +44%

Top Ten ORGANIZED Religions in the United States, 2001
(self-identification, ARIS)

[Nonreligious, Atheist, Agnostic have been dropped from this list.]

Religion 2001 Est.
Adult Pop.
2004 Est.
Total Pop.
% of U.S. Pop.,
2001
Christianity 159,030,000 224,437,959 76.5%
Judaism 2,831,000 3,995,371 1.3%
Islam 1,104,000 1,558,068 0.5%
Buddhism 1,082,000 1,527,019 0.5%
Hinduism 766,000 1,081,051 0.4%
Unitarian Universalist 629,000 887,703 0.3%
Wiccan/Pagan/Druid 307,000 433,267 0.1%
Spiritualist 116,000 163,710 0.05%
Native American Religion 103,000 145,363 0.05%
Baha’i 84,000 118,549 0.04%

Top Ten Largest Religions in the United States, 1990
(self-identification, NSRI)

Religion Estimated
Adult Pop.
Estimated
% of Adult Pop.
Christianity 151,225,000 86.2%
Nonreligious 13,116,000 7.5%
Judaism 3,137,000 1.8%
Agnostic 1,186,000 0.7%
Islam 527,000 * 0.5%
Unitarian Universalist 502,000 0.3%
Buddhism 401,000 * 0.4%
Hinduism 227,000 * 0.2%
Native American Religion 47,000 0.03%
Scientologist 45,000 0.03%

* Islam, Buddhist, Hindu figures in table have been adjusted upwards by Kosmin to account for possible undercount.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

Christianity. Note that in the NSRI and ARIS studies, based on self-identification, Christianity includes: Catholic, Baptist, Protestant, Methodist/Wesleyan, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal/Charismatic, Episcopalian/Anglican, Mormon/Latter-day Saints/LDS, Churches of Christ, Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh-Day Adventist, Assemblies of God, Holiness/Holy, Congregational/United Church of Christ, Church of the Nazarine, Church of God, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical, Mennonite, Christian Science, Church of the Brethren, Born Again, Nondenominational Christians, Disciples of Christ, Reformed/Dutch Reformed, Apostolic/New Apostolic, Quaker, Full Gospel, Christian Reform, Foursquare Gospel, Fundamentalist, Salvation Army, Independent Christian Church, Covenant Church, Jewish Christians, plus 240,000 adults classified as “other” (who did not fall into the preceding groups).

Islam. In recent years Muslim leaders in the United States have optimistically estimated that there were approximately 6.5 million Muslims in the country (Aly Abuzaakouk, American Muslim Council, 1999). In 1998 a Pakistani newspaper even reported that there were 12 million Muslims in the United States (4.2% of the total population)! After the events of September 11, 2001, many newspaper accounts included an estimate of 8 million American Muslims. This would equate to 3% of the U.S. population, or roughly 1 in every 33 people in the country. No comparable figure has ever been confirmed by independent research similar to the Kosmin or Glenmary studies, or the Gallup, Harris, Pew, Barna polls. Currently, surveys consistently report less than 1% of people surveyed identify themselves as Muslims. Muslim community leaders say that many American Muslims are relatively recent immigrants who either do not have telephone service, do not participate in surveys or are afraid to identify themselves as Muslims for fear of anti-Muslim discrimination. Researchers generally agree that the estimate of 300,000 Muslims in the Kosmin study (1990) and Kosmin’s adjusted estimate (to 500,000) are too small to reflect current (year 2005) numbers of American Muslims. In 2004 the National Study of Youth and Religion conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (sample size: 3,370 teens nationwide) found that less than one half of one percent (0.5%) of American teens were Muslim, a proportion right in line with the adult Muslim population, based on other studies. Tom W. Smith of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago is a nationally recognized expert in survey research specializing in the study of social change and survey methodology. Smith published “Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States” in 2001. This is probably the most thorough academic study of this topic in recent years. This study concluded: “The best, adjusted, survey-based estimates put the adult Muslim population in 2000 at 0.67 percent or 1,401,000, and the total Muslim population at 1,886,000. Even if high-side estimates based on local surveys, figures from mosques, and ancestry and immigration statistics are given more weight than the survey-based numbers, it is hard to accept estimates that Muslims are greater than 1 percent of the population (2,090,000 adults or 2,814,000 total).” Additional articles and links are here: Number of Muslims in the United States.

Jews and Judaism. The American Jewish Identity Survey of 2000, conducted by Barry Kosmin, Egon Mayer, and Ariela Keysar at the Center for Jewish Studies at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, concluded that there were 5.5 million Jews in the United States. Of these, 1.4 million were aligned with a religion other than Judaism, 1.4 million were secular or non-religious, leaving 51% of American Jews (just over 3 million people) whose religion was Judaism. The study surveyed 50,000 randomly selected adult Americans. More.

Baha’i. Some representatives of the Baha’i Faith have questioned their omission from the 1990 NSRI “Top 10” list. The NSRI study indicated there were 28,000 self-identified Baha’is in the United States in 1990, making them the 11th largest religion in the country. If one excludes the “nonreligious” and “agnostic” categories from this list, then the Kosmin study would place Baha’is as the 9th largest religion in the U.S.

Although the Kosmin study is well-respected, it should be noted that even with a random sample of such unprecedented size (113,000 respondents), the practical margin of error for this study was high for relatively smaller groups — those with less than 300,000 individuals. In this study, there were a few more respondents who said they were Scientologists or Native American religionists than said they were Baha’is. But given the margin of error, it is possible that in 1990 there were actually more Baha’is. This would be the case especially if, as some Baha’is suggested in response to these findings, there were a high proportion of Baha’is who lived communally and did not have phones for each family, or were recent Iranian immigrants reluctant to identify their Baha’i affiliation over the phone because of past persecution. In 1990 the Baha’i world faith itself claimed 110,000 adherents in the United States. If there were 110,000 self-identified Baha’is in 1990 they would have ranked as the 9th largest U.S. religion (assuming that the other Kosmin figures are accurate).

It is quite possible that growth within this group during this last 9 years has outpaced growth of some other groups, and that Baha’is are now among America’s ten largest religions. But this proposition has not been verified empirically and similar claims of recent growth have also been made by the other groups. Current official estimates from the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly for the U.S. Baha’i population are about 113,000, or about 0.05% of the U.S. population. On 31 March 2000 received information from the U.S. National Spiritual Assembly listing the number of U.S. Baha’is at 133,709. A non-Baha’i historian from the University of Michigan who has scrutinized American Baha’i statistical practices has estimated a current (1999) figure of about 60,000 self-identified Baha’is in the U.S. But, with the ARIS survey now estimating 84,000 adult self-identified Baha’is in the U.S. in the year 2001, it appears that that historian’s estimate is too low. If children are included and a slight undercount assumed, it is quite possible that there were closer to 100,000 (perhaps more) Baha’is in the U.S. in 2001.

It may also be noted that Baha’is are ranked as one of the world’s ten largest international religious bodies and are among the top ten largest organized religions in the world, based on their current reported estimated membership.

Neo-pagan/Wiccan: There were 768,400 Neo-pagans (largest subset were Wiccans) in the U.S. in the year 2000, according to the Wiccan/Pagan Poll, conducted by the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) beginning in late July, 1999. [Online source: http://www.cog.org/cogpoll_final.html] The Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) poll methodology is not comparable to methodology used in the Kosmin NSRI/ARIS studies, Harris Poll, Gallup polls, or Glenmary study. In 2004 the National Study of Youth and Religion conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (sample size: 3,370 teens nationwide) found that fewer than one-third of 1 percent of U.S. teens identified themselves as adherents of paganism (including Wicca). This indicates that the Wiccan/pagan population in the U.S. skews young; the proportion of teens identifying themselves as adherents is up to 3 times the proportion of the total population (0.3%, according to ARIS, 2001).

Another source, published before ARIS data was available:
According to the 2001 edition of David Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopedia, the largest non-Christian organized religions in the U.S. are:

  • Jews: 5.6 million
  • Muslims: 4.1 million
  • Buddhists: 2.4 million
  • Hindus: 1 million

Largest Branches of Christianity in the U.S.
(self-identification, Pew Research Council)

In February and March 2002 the Pew Research Council conducted a survey of 2,002 adults. Questions about religious preference were included. People who identified their religious preference as Christian were asked about which branch of Christianity they belonged to.

The table below was published on page 49 of the Pew report at http://pewforum.org/publications/reports/poll2002.pdf:

Survey Response %, June 1996 %, March 2001 %, March 2002
Protestant 53 53 52
Catholic 23 23 24
Mormon
(Latter-day Saints)
2 2 2
Orthodox 1 1 *
Non-denominational 1 0 0
Something else (Specify) 1 * 2
Not practicing any religion 1 0 0
Don’t know/Refused 2 3 2
TOTAL CHRISTIAN 84% 82% 82%

The percentages shown in this table reflect the number of members of each branch as a proportion of the total U.S. population, not just the Christian population. So the Catholic percentage of 24% for 2002 means that 24% of Americans identified themselves as Catholic in 2002.

This table matches data from Gallup, Barna, and other polling organizations.
For more on this subject

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