The Pew Religious Landscape survey that came out recently trumpeted that America, originally overwhelmingly Protestant, is about to become half or less so. Well, maybe, but not as fast as they say, IMHO.
Here’s the quickie data. When they say only 51.3 pct. of U.S. adults are now Protestant, they leave out Mormons (1.7 pct), Jehovah’s Witnesses (0.7 pct), Unity and “Other Christian: Metaphysical” (0.3 pct), members of the denomination formally known until recently as the Unitarian Universalist Association of Churches and other “Liberal faith” (>0.3 pct – my redaction of their numbers) – who I think most people would consider Protestant, a total of approx. 54.4 pct. Also, let’s be honest, significant numbers of the “Nothing in particulars,” atheists, agnostics, Don’t knows, and Refuseds are essentially Protestant, pushing us back up in the neighbourhood of 60 pct., closer to two-thirds than to half after all.
For sociology to be useful, it has to be applicable across decades and generations. Modern sensitivities to folks who claim not to be Protestant anymore, or who claim others aren’t Protestant anymore, isn’t helpful to the science of the thing.
Long story short, the overall numbers aren’t that much different from those historically after all.
In a related story, White Evangelical denominations are gaining on Mainline denominations, but not because of conservative Mainliners ‘voting with their feet’ as commonly believed, but mostly because of Evangelical women’s later adoption of artificial contraception. (Who knew? I figured that since the Pope hates it, they’d embrace it enthusiastically. Shows what I know!) Sociologists Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout believe that Evangelical relative growth is about exhausted, barring the unforeseen. But the country’s adults are still overwhelmingly some sort of Christian: 78.9 pct. once you add-in Catholics and Orthodox … not counting those “Nothing in particulars,” atheists, agnostics, Don’t knows, and Refuseds, many of whom I said above are essentially Protestant.
Only 4-5 pct. non-Christian, plus some percentage of the “Nothing in particulars,” atheists, agnostics, Don’t knows, and Refuseds. Frankly, I expected more!
One other caveat: extrapolating national percentages for small groups – as many of the ones they mention are – is hazardous to your health, so there has to be some margin of error; it’s not a census after all. For example, there are none, to 4 million Orthodox adults here, but one is talking to you right now, so, so much for that!