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Upgrading God: Americans Big on Conversion

According to a recent survey of over 35,000 Americans, more than a quarter of adults in the United States "have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion." Not only that, but if you count shifts from one Protestant denomination to another, a whopping 44 percent of Americans have flip-flopped on religion. It seems that the grass is always greener, even when it comes to God. Conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the survey revealed that Americans are very likely to leave the faith in which they were brought up, and that "the group with the greatest net gain was the unaffiliated."

The Catholic Church is experiencing the greatest net losses: While one in three Americans was raised in a Catholic home, less than one in four describes him or herself as Catholic. These losses would have been even greater if not for the influx of immigration from Catholic countries in Latin and South America.

The group experiencing the greatest growth in numbers included Americans who have no religious affiliations: Now 16.1% of the population. Interestingly, only one-quarter of those in this group describe themselves as atheist or agnostic: The majority of the unaffiliated population simply describe their religion as "nothing in particular."

Other survey highlights:

  • Nearly half of Hindus in the U.S., one-third of Jews and a quarter of Buddhists have obtained post-graduate education, compared with only about one in ten members of the adult population overall. Hindus and Jews are also much more likely than other groups to report high income levels.


  • Men are significantly more likely than women to claim no religious affiliation. Nearly one in five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13% of women.
  • Among people who are married, nearly four in ten (37%) are married to a spouse with a different religious affiliation. (This figure includes Protestants who are married to another Protestant from a different denominational family, such as a Baptist who is married to a Methodist.) Hindus and Mormons are the most likely to be married (78% and 71%, respectively) and to be married to someone of the same religion (90% and 83%, respectively).
  • Of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States, black Americans are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation. Even among those blacks who are unaffiliated, three in four belong to the "religious unaffiliated" category (that is, they say that religion is either somewhat or very important in their lives), compared with slightly more than one-third of the unaffiliated population overall.

Check out the rest of the results at the Pew Forum website.

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