It’s one of the enduring traits of the United States and a source of understandable pride. Americans are, in part, defined by the freedoms they enjoy under the Constitution in general, and in our freedom of religion in particular. And this open environment has led us to be one of the most religiously diverse nations on the planet, right? As Dr. Joyner explores the topic, perhaps not so much. This comes from a new Pew Research study which breaks down the religious affiliation of Americans in one convenient graph.
Looking at this graph, it’s easy to see that we’re considerably more diverse than a theological dictatorship such as Iran. But by the same yardstick, we’re nowhere near as diverse as the religious melting pot of Singapore. America could easily be defined as a country which is essentially Christian with a significant mix of the “unaffiliated” coming in a distant second. The only other religion which even moves the needle is the Jews, and that only rings up 2%.
But, as Joyner notes, this treats all Christians as one religion. Fair enough, but there is a lot of diversity inside that category.
This is a perfectly reasonable methodology, but certainly not the only one. It really depends on what you’re trying to get at with the rankings.
The sense in which America is religiously diverse is the sheer multitude of religions represented here. And the report acknowledges that fact:
While adherents of many world religions live in the United States – the world’s third most populous country – most of those religions each represent less than 2% of the U.S. population. That includes people who identify their religion in surveys as Judaism (1.8%), Buddhism (1.2%), Islam (0.9%), Hinduism (0.6%) and folk or traditional religions (0.2%).
But grouping all Christians into a single category, which again is perfectly reasonable depending on what one is trying to measure, points to the fact that, despite nominal diversity, we’re essentially a Christian nation. We non-believers are more numerous than any non-Christian religion–indeed, all of them put together. Outside of a handful of urban areas, then, Americans will rarely encounter people who aren’t either a Christian, a Jew, or non-religious.
Does a lack of religious diversity equate to a lack of religious tolerance? I would say no, but that answer comes from my own upbringing, I’m sure. As Rick Moran points out, you can always find somebody who disagrees. Even when it comes to an Easter Egg hunt.
Muslim Parents in Dearborn Upset About Flyer for Easter Egg Hunt
The flyers were handed out at public schools and referenced an Easter egg hunt at a nearby Christian church. So, some Muslim parents get an outrage twofer: They can claim bias against Muslims and play the old atheist trick of claiming that passing the flyer out at public schools violates the separation of church and state…
In fact, public schools are part of a larger community and have a duty to serve that community. If that means making flyers announcing a secular church party available to all students, then they are fulfilling their mandate. If public school teachers actually handed out the flyers — something that wasn’t made clear in the article — they would simply be fulfilling their mission to engage the community.
If Christians were going to be doing any proselytizing in the Muslim community, they wouldn’t use pagan symbols and secular-themed parties. But looking under the bed for Christians and pretending to be outraged by innocent gestures of community involvement seems to be the best way to get media exposure.
After all, we wouldn’t want to offend anyone, now would we?
You can please some of the people some of the time, I guess.