Religious change in America between 2000 and 2010

Results from the 2010 U.S. Religion Census show religious changes in America between 2000 and 2010:

The 2010 U.S. Religion Census, released May 1 on the Association of Religion Data Archives, found that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gained the most regular members in the last 10 years, growing by nearly 2 million to a total of 6.14 million adherents in 13,600 congregations…

  • Taken together, nondenominational and independent churches may now be considered the third largest religious group in the country, with 12.2 million adherents in 35,500 congregations. Only the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are larger.
  • The U.S. was home to 2,106 mosques nationwide in 2010. The figure includes 166 mosques in Texas, 118 in Florida and 50 Muslim houses of worship in North Carolina…

Mainline Protestant churches lost an average of 12.8 percent of adherents in the first decade of the 21st century; 5 percent fewer active members were found in Catholic churches.

There is an explanation for this growing diversity toward the end of the article: the religious economy approach. This school of thought in the sociology of religion suggests that religious groups in the United States have to compete for adherents, sharpening the appeal and “marketing” of some of these groups. This takes place because of the separation of church of state which is a contrast to state churches in Europe that tend to stifle religious competition.

Some of these changes are also interesting at the local level. For example, Muslims are the fastest growing religious group in Illinois and there are now more Muslims in the Chicago area than Methodists. [The actual numbers for this second fact are not in this online story but were in the print version of the newspaper.]

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