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Which of These New Faith Categories Do You Fall Into?

Faith in America

The Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life has identified seven new boxes to place Americans in centering on the issue of belief.

Sunday Stalwarts are the most religious group. Not only do they actively practice their faith, but they also are deeply involved in their religious congregations.

God-and-Country Believers are less active in church groups or other religious organizations, but, like Sunday Stalwarts, they hold many traditional religious beliefs and tilt right on social and political issues. They are the most likely of any group to see immigrants as a threat.

Racial and ethnic minorities make up a relatively large share of the Diversely Devout, who are diverse not only demographically, but also in their beliefs. It is the only group in which solid majorities say they believe in God “as described in the Bible” as well as in psychics, reincarnation and spiritual energy located in physical things.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Solidly Secular are the least religious of the seven groups. These relatively affluent, highly educated U.S. adults–mostly white and male–tend to describe themselves as neither religious nor spiritual and reject all New Age beliefs as well as belief in the God of the Bible. In fact, many do not believe in a higher power at all.

Religion Resisters, on the other hand, largely do believe in some higher power or spiritual force (but not the God of the Bible), and many have some New Age beliefs and consider themselves spiritual but not religious. At the same time, members of this group express strongly negative views of organized religion, saying that churches have too much influence in politics and that, overall, religion does more harm than good. Both of these nonreligious typology groups are generally liberal and Democrat in their political views.

The middle two groups straddle the border between the highly religious and the nonreligious. Seven-in-ten Relaxed Religious Americans say they believe in the God of the Bible, and four-in-ten pray daily. But relatively few attend religious services or read scripture, and they almost unanimously say it is not necessary to believe in God to be a moral person.

All Spiritually Awake Americans hold at least some New Age beliefs (views rejected by most of the Relaxed Religious) and believe in God or some higher power, though many do not believe in the biblical God and relatively few attend religious services on a weekly basis.

Faith in America Is Getting More Complicated

Pew researchers purposely avoided looking at traditional religious affiliation categories in determining these groups but not surprisingly found similarities. However, the research also revealed members of widely disparate religious traditions sometimes have a lot in common. Sunday Stalwarts, for instance, are largely Protestant, but also include Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others.

Among the highly religious groups, the religious identity profiles of Sunday Stalwarts and God-and-Country Believers are very similar. Majorities in each group are Protestant, and evangelical Protestantism constitutes the single largest religious tradition in both groups. Compared with Sunday Stalwarts, God-and-Country Believers include more Catholics (24 percent vs. 13 percent) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (8 percent vs. 1 percent), and somewhat fewer Mormons (less than 1 percent vs. 5 percent).

Compared with the other two highly religious groups, the Diversely Devout include fewer Protestants and more unaffiliated people, often called “nones.” (“Nones” is an umbrella category composed of U.S. adults who identify, religiously, as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” All of the “nones” among the Diversely Devout, however, are people who describe their current religion as “nothing in particular.”)

A majority of the Solidly Secular (76 percent) and Religion Resisters (71 percent) are unaffiliated, including one-in-five in each group who describe themselves as agnostic. Religion Resisters are more likely than the Solidly Secular to describe their religion as “nothing in particular” (45 percent vs. 23 percent), while the Solidly Secular are more likely than Religion Resisters to describe themselves as atheists (31 percent vs. 6 percent).

Like the highly religious groups, the somewhat religious groups are mostly composed of Christians. There are more evangelicals among the Relaxed Religious than among the Spiritually Awake (25 percent vs. 16 percent), and more religious “nones” among the Spiritually Awake than among the Relaxed Religious (30 percent vs. 17 percent).

One other finding that church leaders might find interesting: Outside of the Sunday Stalwarts, relatively few Americans–even those who otherwise hold strong religious beliefs–frequently attend religious services or read scripture.

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Bob Ditmer has worked in Christian media for more than 20 years including positions with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Focus on the Family.