Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey

People should check this site out here for a bunch of information on religion in the United States.  Media reports are emphasizing that the data shows that people in the U.S. change religions a lot.  With regard to Muslims (where it seems a lot of this is data that was previously released) if one believes the Pew data there are a lot less Muslims in the U.S. than Muslims usually claim (around, but less than 2 million while Muslims like to say six or eight or ten million) and Muslims are the most diverse religious group racially/ethnically with large amounts of whites (Arabs counting as whites), Blacks, and Asians with some Hispanics.  The only other religious group as diverse was Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

 I’ll keep chewing on the report to see if I come up with other stuff — but I really wish we as Muslims would stop (falsely) bragging about how many Muslims we are (numbers are not the most important thing anyways) and start working on really giving the message and creating functional communities.  This is really a whole different post, but to remind myself to come back to it later, almost all really functional Muslim communities and even masjids are ones started, run by and composed largely of immigrant groups.  The criticisms of this older generation are easy to make and they should by no means be ignored but the failure of those of us who are indigenous Muslims (of whatever ethnic group or minhaj) to succeed in offering real, functional alternatives are absolutely glaring.     I know that this is what groups like MANA are trying to address, may Allaah (swt) make us successful.

6 Responses to “Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey”

  1. bjkeefe Says:

    I didn’t see the data by following your link, but I read another nugget about this survey a few days ago: the fastest growing “affiliation” is “non-believer.” It is now the fourth-largest group in the US, if memory serves.

    Pardon the cheerleading for my team.

    I am surprised to see that the number of Muslims is so low. I would have expected more. I hope it was not the case that some Muslims were reluctant to say, but, sadly, I would not be surprised if that were the case.

  2. abunooralirlandee Says:

    Brendan, I don’t want to burst your bubble but while “unaffiliated” was the fourth largest group, most of the unaffiliated answered “no particular religion” rather than “atheist” or even “agnostic.”

    I don’t know which of those categories you identify with, but “atheist” was only 1.6 percent and “agnostic” 2.4 percent. That does seem low based on other news reports about the supposed upsurge in nonbelief in this country.

    There are obviously a whole bunch of underlying questions about why people answer a survey like this the way they do, but I do at least give some credit to an entity like Pew that they know what they’re doing. I hold open the possibility that they don’t, of course.

    The survey did find that ten percent of Americans are former Catholics, so that’s a huge group that (I think) both of us can identify with.

  3. bjkeefe Says:

    Not going to let me lie with statistics, eh? ;^)

    Actually, I did not realize that part about “no particular religion” being lumped in. Doesn’t jibe with my memory. I’ll have to see if I can find the thing I (thought I) read.

    On the other hand, it may speak to your point about it being hard to know how people will respond to surveys like this. There are quite a few people whom I’ve met who don’t really believe in God, and certainly don’t practice any religion, but who still feel uncomfortable saying so, flatly. They tend to say things like, “Well, I don’t go to church anymore …” but then hasten to add, “… but I’m still spiritual.” Or something along those lines.

  4. abunooralirlandee Says:


    Yeah, let me know if you find out what you are talking about…I just looked at the data from the site I linked to, like I said it seems to me that there has been other reports with much higher numbers for nonbelievers.

    And no doubt there are people who, if asked, would say they are Catholic or Jewish or whatever but who also don’t believe in God, or whose beliefs are quite far from anything orthodox. I really have no idea what the actual numbers or percentages are, which is why I have some interest in surveys like this despite their weaknesses.

    I think one’s perceptions of these issues would be something that would be heavily influenced both by one’s own attitudes towards what it means to be a believer and the type of “crowd” one hangs out with, which is why I think perceptions may be misleading here and objective data is helpful.

  5. bjkeefe Says:

    Abu Noor:

    Here is the article that I had remembered, and here is the graphic that stuck in my mind.

    A line which also stuck in my mind, from the first link: “More than 16 percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth largest ‘religious group.'”

    I grant that “atheist” and “agnostic” are not exactly equal to “unaffiliated,” but “not part of any organized faith,” assuming that’s how the option was phrased during the survey, seems mostly to offer a polite way for people to duck having to answer “atheist” or “agnostic” directly.

    Anyway, nothing worth really quibbling about any longer. I just thought I’d tell you where my initial impressions came from.

    It is interesting, as you note, that the biggest decline is in the Catholic faith. I wonder how much of that is due to people like me, who found the creed unbelievable and the official Church’s positions unacceptable, and how much is due to people who disliked the Church’s more ecumenical and modernist stance, compared to the more rigid ideologies of some of the evangelical sects. Based on recent observations of the Church’s move back toward more traditional trappings, I suspect the Church leaders care more about the latter group.

  6. More Pew Analysis: American Muslims Young, Not Wealthy « Abu Noor Al-Irlandee Says:

    […] Pew Analysis: American Muslims Young, Not Wealthy In a previous post, I had examined the Pew U.S. Religious Landscapte survey, and had mentioned that according to this […]

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