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New study identifies seven religious ‘types’

28 September 2018

Americans, awake; or be stalwart or solid


Pew Research Centre findings suggest that many people in the United States mix traditional faith with New Age beliefs or practices

Pew Research Centre findings suggest that many people in the United States mix traditional faith with New Age beliefs or practices

A NEW analysis of people’s beliefs and practices has broken down the population of the United states into seven “types” — ranging from “Sunday Stalwarts” to “Solidly Secular”.

The seven religious types have been identified by the think tank the Pew Research Center, and published in the study The Religious Typology: A new way to categorize Americans by religion, which was published late last month (at pewforum.org).

The study is based on a survey 4729 US adults, and “looks at beliefs and behaviours that cut across many denominations — important traits that unite people of different faiths, or that divide people who have the same religious affiliation — producing a new and revealing classification, or typology, of religion in America”, an article on Pew’s website said.

“The new typology sorts Americans into seven groups based on the religious and spiritual beliefs they share, how actively they practice their faith, the value they place on their religion, and the other sources of meaning and fulfilment in their lives.”

“Sunday Stalwarts” make up 17 per cent of respondents, followed by 12 per cent who are described as “God and Country Believers”, a group who identify with social and political conservatism. The “Diversely Devout” come in third at 11 per cent of respondents: they say they are religious and follow a heterogeneous belief-mix taken from other practices. These three groups make up 39 per cent of respondents and are classed as highly religious.

Thirty-two per cent fall into the “Somewhat Religious” category, which is divided into “Relaxed Religious” and “Spiritually Awake”. The “Relaxed Religious” believe in God but do not associate belief with morality. The “Spiritually Awake” population believes in some kind of afterlife.

Finally, the non-religious make up 29 per cent of respondents. About 12 per cent belong to the “Religion Resisters”, who believe that religion is harmful, and 17 per cent are “Solidly Secular”, holding no religious beliefs whatsoever.

The study finds that New Age beliefs and practices are common. Forty-two per cent of those surveyed say that they believe that psychics are genuine — and this includes one third of the “Sunday stalwarts” types. Nearly one fifth of this group also believe in reincarnation, and 16 per cent of them believe in astrology.

A member of the Pew Research team, Becka Alper, said that the study showed that “religion is deeply entangled with these other identities and viewpoints.”

The senior editor at Pew, Rich Morin, said: “We believe that this religious typology, based on people’s beliefs and practices rather than on their denomination, offers a new and important way to understand the American religious experience. It identifies both what unites certain people across the boundaries of different religious denominations and also what divides people of the same religious tradition.

“Beyond the distinctive characteristics of the seven groups, other striking findings include the low level of religious participation among many of those who consider themselves to be religious, widespread New Age beliefs — even among those who are religious in traditional ways — and the many and varied ways that people find meaning and personal fulfilment in their lives.”

You can take part in a religious typology quiz at pewforum.org.

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