03/01/2008 - A new survey of the American religious landscape, out this week from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, confirms the dynamism of American religious experience. Its results stand in contrast to Europe, where Christian observance has slowly withered under the Continent's now moribund state-sanctioned churches.
Some 60% of Americans say religion is "very important" to them. That's compared with 12% for the French and 25% for the Italians. The study describes a "competitive religious marketplace" in which 84% of Americans claim one of hundreds of religious affiliations -- from Pentecostalism and Judaism to Islam and Mormonism.
Perhaps the most striking finding is that 44% of American adults have switched religious affiliations at some point. There are reasons to find this statistic troubling. People who leave one denomination for another may be more concerned with fulfilling their boutique church-going desires than with meeting the moral obligations of a religious group or the demands of a doctrine. That almost a third of respondents also said they were married to someone of a different faith suggests religion has become more a matter of individual conscience than of continuity and tradition.
Yet there is something remarkable about so much religious diversity.
Read the complete editorial God's Country on the Wall Street Journal's Web site.
Read the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey on the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Web site.