Report

U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Religious Beliefs and Practices

  • June 23, 2008

This major survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that most Americans have a non-dogmatic approach to faith. A strong majority of those who are affiliated with a religion, including majorities of nearly every religious tradition, do not believe their religion is the only way to salvation. And almost the same number believes that there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their religion. This openness to a range of religious viewpoints is in line with the great diversity of religious affiliation, belief and practice that exists in the United States, as documented in a survey of more than 35,000 Americans that comprehensively examines the country's religious landscape.

This is not to suggest that Americans do not take religion seriously. The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey also shows that more than half of Americans say religion is very important in their lives, attend religious services regularly and pray daily. Furthermore, a plurality of adults who are affiliated with a religion want their religion to preserve its traditional beliefs and practices rather than either adjust to new circumstances or adopt modern beliefs and practices. Moreover, significant minorities across nearly all religious traditions see a conflict between being a devout person and
living in a modern society.

The Landscape Survey confirms the close link between Americans' religious affiliation, beliefs and practices, on the one hand, and their social and political attitudes, on the other. Indeed, the survey demonstrates that the social and political fault lines in American society run through, as well as alongside, religious traditions. The relationship between religion and politics is particularly strong with respect to political ideology and views on social issues such as abortion and homosexuality, with the more religiously committed adherents across several religious traditions expressing more conservative political views. On other issues included in the survey, such as environmental protection, foreign affairs, and the proper size and role of government, differences based on religion tend to be smaller.

Read the full report U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Religious Beliefs and Practices on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.  Also view the report's online section, which includes dynamic tools that complement the full report.

The online presentation of the findings has been updated to incorporate the new material on religious beliefs and practices as well as social and political views. The site includes interactive mapping, dynamic charts that illustrate key findings and a variety of other tools that are designed to help users delve deeper into the material. The online tools provide easily accessible portraits of American religious groups, including such smaller groups as Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Muslims.