2020 U.S. Religion Census nears completion

Religion News Service (RNS) reports on some preliminary conclusions from the the 2020 U.S. Religion Census. This decennial census has been carried out since the 1950s, by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.

As expected, the number of “adherents” (persons affiliated with a local congregation) has declined since the last such census. But religious groups that have a lot fo immigrants are doing quite well.

For example, Roman Catholics have grown modestly, from 59 million adherents to 61 million adherents. But essentially all that growth comes from Hispanic immigrants. RNS reports: “‘If you took away the Hispanic population in the Catholic Church, it would look as bad as mainline denominations,’ said Scott Thumma, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research….”

A more striking example: American Muslims. RNS interviewed Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky, about Muslims in the U.S. RNW summarizes Bagby’s thoughts as follows: “Muslims may be in a kind of golden age in the U.S. They are younger than the American population overall, and the Boomers among them are financially well off and able to contribute to the construction of new mosques.”

Also worth noting from the RNS report: They interviewed Scott Thumma, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, who said: “Denominational brands have weakened, and divisions have increased over issues such as female clergy or sexual orientation….” Unitarian Universalism may be somewhat insulated from these trends, since we generally agree with each other on female clergy and sexual orientation (we had those fights in the last century). But I suspect we are still affected by the weakening of denominational brands.

I’ll be watching the website for the 2020 census, to see when the full report is finally released.

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