Who You’ll Be Watching Fireworks with this Fourth of July

Throw a popper at your July 4th gathering and you’ll likely hit a believer — depending on where you live.

God Bless America. It turns out that most of your fellow fireworks spectators agree with that statement, and many even share a basic definition of God.

While it’s likely you’ll find yourself sharing space with Christians, that’s not the end of the story. A whole host of factors, including locale, gender, and age come into play, along with a person’s consideration of the importance of her religion.

Religion statistics are fascinating. The black and white numbers obscure deeper complexities. Statistics don’t answer the question of how passionately a person believes in an identified religion or how religion motivates him to act in daily life. They leave out misguided crusades and poignant moments of empathy. Yet statistics touch upon the surface of religious feeling in America, and some of them may surprise you.

In a survey of 232 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014, the United States ranks sixty-eighth in religious diversity. That bequeaths the standing of a “moderate level” of religious diversity. However, Pew notes that if the hefty number of 78 — the percentage of Christians in America — were broken down into the different denominations encompassed within Christianity, America would be counted as more diverse.

The next largest percentage is 16: the Americans who don’t identify with any particular religious affiliation and consider themselves to be either atheists, agnostics, or choose not to self-identify. After that, 2 percent identify as Jewish, and 1 percent as Buddhist. Muslims, Hindus, folk religions, and other religions each individually compose less than 1 percent of America’s religious landscape.

That’s not the end of the story, however. Your location in the United States also has an impact on the religious makeup of your neighbors. If you’re in the Midwest, there’s not much of a difference; your community composition most closely resembles the statistics for the country. If you’re in the South, there will be more evangelical Protestants in those folding chairs next to you. If you’re in the Northeast, you’ll brush elbows with more Catholics. If you’re in the West, you’ll encounter more who identify as unaffiliated, including atheists and agnostics.

Gender and age also play a role in the religious makeup, and the statistics particularly highlight the makeup of the unaffiliated. The Pew Research Center found that 20 percent of men claim no religious affiliation, compared with 13 percent of women. Further, 31 percent of these people are under the age of 30 and 71 percent are under 50.

A 2012 Gallup poll went one step further, asking people how important religion was in their daily lives, and how often they attended religious services. They found that Mormons are the most religious, by these standards, followed by Protestants, Muslims, Catholics, other non-Christians religions, and Jews.

How strongly a person believes in their faith impacts their spiritual story. Will you be sitting next to a religious fanatic or a nominal supporter? That’s up to you to discover.

Image via Walter. 

Lacy Cooke
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