About 218 million of the United States’ roughly 245 million adults say they believe in God. Such deeply personal views might seem abstract or distant when expressed as large numbers, but this is not the only way to look at religious belief in the U.S. What if we looked at our data about people’s religious beliefs and practices through a slightly different lens – that of small community, rather than a huge country?
Recently, we did just that, showing the religious affiliations of Americans by creating an imaginary 100-person town and using it as a model to show our data in a simple way. Here, we do the same to show Americans’ religious beliefs and practices.
The following six charts use data from the 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study to create a profile of American religious beliefs and practices if the country were made up of exactly 100 adults.
If the U.S. were a town of just 100 adults, 36 would attend religious services at least once a week, while 33 would go to religious services no more than monthly. Another 30 would seldom or never attend a house of worship. (Surveys that ask directly about religious attendance typically obtain higher estimates of weekly attendance than other, more indirect methods of data collection. For more discussion of this phenomenon, see “U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious.“)
In a U.S. with just 100 people, 89 would believe in God. This would include 63 people who would be absolutely certain of their belief, 20 who would be fairly certain and six who would be not too or not at all certain. Just nine people would not believe in God or a universal spirit.
In a U.S. comprised of 100 people, 55 would believe in heaven and hell, while 17 would believe in heaven but not hell. Three people would believe in hell but not heaven, and 25 would not believe in either.
If the U.S. had 100 people, 53 would say their religion is very important to them, 24 would say it was somewhat important and 11 people each would say religion is not too or not at all important to them.
If the U.S. had 100 adults, 58 would still identify with the religion in which they were raised, but 42 would no longer identify with their childhood faith. Among those who have switched religions, 21 were Protestants who either left Protestantism altogether or switched from one Protestant tradition to another. For instance, someone who left a mainline Protestant church and joined an evangelical Protestant church would be included in this group. In addition, 13 are former Catholics and four were raised religiously unaffiliated.