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Study Finds American Religious Affiliations Are Fluid

A new study on religion in the United States released Tuesday found that more than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood and a growing number of people are unaffiliated. Analysts examine the role of faith in America.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to some new information about Americans and their religions. Margaret Warner has that story.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Americans' sense of religious affiliation is surprisingly fluid, a broad new study has found.

    Among the findings in a survey of 35,000 Americans by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: 44 percent of American adults say they have left their childhood faith in favor of another religion or no organized religion at all. That includes people who switched from one Protestant denomination to another.

    The fastest-growing group overall are 16 percent who are unaffiliated with any particular faith. That is more than double the percentage who were unaffiliated as children.

    And while 31 percent of Americans surveyed said they were raised Catholic, only 24 percent identify as Catholic today.

    Overall, 78 percent of Americans are Christian. Just under 5 percent ascribe to all the non-Christian faiths combined, including Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism.

    Among the dramatic declines: 51 percent of Americans say they are Protestant, down from nearly two-thirds in the 1970s.

    And here to discuss these findings and their significance is Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life; and Nancy Ammerman, professor of sociology of religion at Boston University.

    Welcome to you both.

    And this is quite a study, Luis Lugo.

    LUIS LUGO, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: Thank you. Good to be here.

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