US becoming a nation of minorities

Protestants may soon account for less than half of the US population for the first time since the country's founding, according to a new survey.

    The number of Muslims in America is increasing

    While still outnumbering the next biggest group -

    Catholics - roughly two to one, Protestant denominations have

    been losing members to people who say they 

    have no religion, the report from the University of

    Chicago said.

    While Protestant membership stood at 63% of the

    population in 1993, it fell to 52% in 2002 and will drop

    below half in the next year or two, if that hasn't happened

    already, it added

    .

    The information came from a survey that has been tracking

    societal trends for 32 years.

    Tom Smith, general director of

    the National Opinion Research Center, said the Protestant

    decline is another example of how the United States is on it

    way to being a nation of minorities.

    Non-Christian faiths

    "Many scholars have noted that the numbers of people who

    say they have 'no religion' is increasing, but they haven't

    noted what faith group these people have been leaving.

    "It is

    clear that many of these people are former Protestants," he

    said.

    President Bush is a practising
    Protestant

    It is also possible a small number of the people who

    formerly identified themselves as Protestant have now decided

    to identify themselves simply as "Christian" - in which case they

    would be in the "other" category on the survey, Smith said.

    The survey found those who said they were Catholic in 2002

    remained fairly steady at about 25% of the population.

    People who said they belonged to other religions, including

    Eastern faiths and Islam, Orthodox Christians,

    interdenominational Christians and native-American faiths,

    increased from 3% to 7% between 1993 and 2002.

    Protestant decline

    Meanwhile, the number of people who said they were Jewish remained stable at slightly under 2%.

    Those who said they identified with no religion totalled

    nearly 14% in 2002 compared to 9% in 1993.

    "Many scholars have noted that the numbers of people who

    say they have 'no religion' is increasing, but they haven't

    noted what faith group these people have been leaving.

    It is

    clear that many of these people are former Protestants"


    Tom Smith,
    National Opinion Research Center

    Protestants are in decline, the survey found, because

    younger adherents are dropping out. Immigration will probably

    further dilute the Protestant numbers but will keep Catholic

    rates stable, Smith said.

    The study defined Protestants as those belonging to all

    post-Reformation Christian churches such as Baptist, Methodist

    and Episcopalian, including Mormons and New Age Spirituality

    adherents.

    The survey included 2765 people who were 18 and older and

    there was a margin of error of plus or minus 2% for

    the 2002 statistics.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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