Baha'i News -- Half of Americans religious, survey finds Sept. 23, 2002

Half of Americans religious, survey finds

By Linda Leicht

At least half of all Americans are religious, according to a recently released study, but what that means for American churches is unclear.

The survey — Religious Congregations and Membership: 2000 — was conducted by the Glenmary Research Center in Nashville, a Catholic research and social organization that coordinated the study with analysts from several faiths.

Sherri Doty, of the Assemblies of God, provided the information for that denomination. Doty is also a member of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.

The 2000 survey included participation by 149 faiths, including — for the first time — several non-Christian faiths such as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Baha’i.

“We found half of all Americans are associated with these groups studied,” Doty said, “which speaks to us about the broadness of this study.”

Participation in the survey was voluntary, with numbers provided by representatives of the denominations.

“The numbers for each denomination may not be exact, but are close enough to help uncover important trends,” said the Rev. Dale Jones, a Church of the Nazarene minister who oversaw the survey.

The largest denominations in the country provided data for the study, but some churches — many historically African-American religious bodies — did not participate.

One area where theological differences could affect numbers is the definition of adherents. While the survey requested the number of adult members, children and an estimate of participants who are not members, the outcomes could vary.

“Different religious bodies have different definitions of what constitutes membership ... because of differences in theology,” said Doty. “But we get as close as we can get.”

Church planners and religious researchers are expected to use the information in the survey, she said.

“Basically, we’re trying to get a handle on religious participation, getting it out in a public way, so a lot of people can access it,” she said.

For information about the study, visit

©Copyright 2002, The Springfield News-Leader

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