By Julia Duin
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
February 25, 2008
Evangelical Christianity has become the dominant religious tradition in this country while Roman Catholicism is slowly bleeding members, according to a massive survey released today by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, a massive 45-question survey conducted of 35,000 American adults 18 and older, revealed evangelical Protestants outnumber Catholics by 26.3 percent of the population (66 million) to 24 percent (54 million).
"There is no question that the demographic balance has shifted in past few decades toward evangelical churches," said Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum. "They are now the mainline of American Protestantism."
While one in three Americans are raised Roman Catholic, one in four adults describe themselves as such, a loss of 10 percent despite the huge numbers of Hispanic Catholic immigrants swelling American churches, survey researchers said.
Those who leave either drop out of church entirely or join Pentecostal or evangelical Protestant churches, Pew Forum director Luis Lugo said.
One out of every 10 evangelicals is a former Catholic, he said. Hispanic Catholics are leaving at higher rates; 20 percent of them end up in evangelical or Pentecostal churches.
"It's a desire for a closer experience of God," he said. "It's not so much disenchantment with the teachings of the Catholic Church but the pull of what they see in pentecostalism."
The survey reveals the religious leanings of some 225 million American adults, has a margin of error of less than 1 percent. It also revealed more than twice as many Jewish adults (3.8 million) as Muslim adults (1.3 million).
The group with the highest losses? Jehovah's Witnesses, said the survey, which revealed two-thirds of those raised in the faith depart it as adults.