Is America a Religious Nation? Pew's Report Reveals a New Silent Majority

While the cultural war dominates our attention, a new religious middle is emerging.

Do you consider yourself a “Sunday Stalwart”? What about a “God-and- Country” believer? These are two of the new definitions the Pew Research Center is using to better classify religious groups in the United States. It represents the center’s effort to look at religion as a phenomenon independent of denomination and belief alone. This task is a tall order given the numerous Christian denominations along with the diverse world religions represented in the US. Before moving forward, I encourage all the readers to actually take the survey. Does the label fit you? Tell us your reactions in the comment space below.

Here are the categories with their stats:

As you can see, the center divides the Americans into high, medium and no religiosity. It is interesting that while the typology is focusing on religion, it also contains two categories for secular Americans. That fact that they represent close to 1/3 of the population is notable in a country with a history of high religiosity. The middle section correlates well with the “spiritual but not religious” crowd. That is, they are open to spirituality but not committed to an organized religious group.

The “God-and-Country” and “Religion Resisters” represent the polar opposites of the cultural war. While they represent only 24% of the populations, their views tend to dominate the public conversation in the media and politics. You can also see the two major political parties appealing directly to them. In a time of increasing polarization, it is not surprising to see levels of religiosity separated by political ideology. It is, however, unfortunate to learn that the view of 24% of the population supersedes the view of the other 76%.

How do these categories correlate with traditional religious categories based on denomination? The report does a good job in cross-referencing the two. For example, Evangelicals represent about 44% of the top two most religious categories. Unaffiliated (or “None”) represent about 74% of the least religious categories. Yet, they also represent 30% of the Spiritually awake and 22% of the diversely devout. Catholics are spread out in the range between “God and Country” and “Spiritually Awake” accounting for about 20-25% of each. Mainliners represent 19% of the “Relaxed Religious.”

While no typology is devoid of generalizations, Pew’s methodology does a good job in expressing religiosity across denominations revealing implied political allegiances. For example, while Evangelicals and Catholics shared different theological beliefs, we see them solidly represented in the “God-and-Country” category. While shedding light on divisions, the typology also shows commonalities expressed in the middle groups where opposite ends of the religious spectrum are well represented. In the “Spiritually Awake” category, there are roughly about as much Unaffiliated as there are Protestants. By doing so, the methodology delineates groups that are ripe for dialogue that could counter-balance the binary polarization dominating the political discourse.

The hope is that those in the middle categories, can lead the discussion towards national unity. If we divide the categories into three main groups, we have 30% on the polar ends and 40% in the middle (from “Diversely Devout” to “Spiritually Awake”). This statistic alone shows that a significant portion of society is supportive of constructive dialogue.

Can they make their voice heard?

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. If you took the survey**,** which group do you belong to?

Q2. Did the survey results surprise you? Why or why not?

Q3. How can both the religious and the non-religious work together for the common good?

No. 1-2

Yeah, I wonder if there's a center-left religious movement growing in Christendom, one that emphasizes compassion and acceptance over holding fast to the "rules". I think of the Liturgists podcast and Jen Hatmaker, to name a couple of people who are sketching out this space.

  1. God and Country 2. I was surprised that more G&C don't read the Bible and pray more. Didn't study the non-religious.