Most Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving As Christians

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Mark Tapscott Executive Editor, Chief of Investigative Group
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America may not officially be a “Christian nation,” but survey data makes it clear most Americans sharing Thanksgiving turkey and dressing in 2015 call themselves Christians of one kind or another.

Eighty-two percent of more than 60,000 people interviewed last year by the Barna Group describe themselves as Christian. Forty-seven percent identify as Protestant, 20 percent as Catholic and 10 percent as having no faith. Two percent say there is no god.

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed told Barna they consider themselves “absolutely committed” to their Christian faith and 35 percent are “moderately committed” to the faith.

Fifty-six percent said they attended church within the past week and 14 percent within the past month. Seven percent of the respondents claimed never to have attended a church service.

Virtually all of the respondents – 92 percent — said they pray to God, 61 percent read the Bible and 39 percent attend Sunday school. One-fourth of those interviewed said they volunteered time working for a non-profit.

Among the denominations, Catholics have the most adherents at 20 percent, followed by Baptist at 17 percent and 30 percent as non-mainline independent or fundamentalist. Methodists claimed 5 percent, Lutherans 4 percent and Pentecostals 3 percent.

Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina have the largest Baptist populations, with, respectively, 47 percent, 46 percent and 41 percent. Baptists are strong throughout the Southern states, with Tennessee at 39 percent and Kentucky at 38 percent, followed in order by Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, Virginia and Texas.

West Virginia with 26 percent and Maryland with 16 percent are the non-Southern states with the largest number of Baptists.

Utah with 51 percent had the largest percentage of Mormons, with Idaho second at 18 percent. Nineteen states had less than 1 percent of their populations identifying as Mormon.

New York and New Jersey had the highest number of self-identifying Jews at 5 percent, followed by Connecticut at 3 percent.

Religious skepticism is strongest in the states of Montana and Wyoming, with 21 percent describing themselves as skeptics. Washington state has the second largest percentage of skeptics at 19 percent, followed by Nevada, Maine and California at 17 percent.

Muslims barely made a dent in the Barna results, with 31 states having less than 1 percent. The 15 states with the largest self-described Muslim populations all had 1 percent. The Dakotas had no Muslim adherents identified in the survey interviews.

Montgomery, Ala., is America’s most Baptist city at 58 percent according to Barna, followed by Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., and Knoxville, Tenn., both at 52 percent.

Harlingen and El Paso, Texas, tie as the Catholic cities at 48 percent. New York at 33 percent is eighth and Boston is 12th with 31 percent.

West Palm Beach, Fla., at 8 percent and New York at 7 percent are the most Jewish.

Salt Lake City is the country’s most Mormon city but followers of Joseph Smith make up only 49 percent of the residents of Utah’s capital.

Most of the churches attended by Americans are smaller, with 42 percent having less than 100 members and 40 percent counting 499 or fewer members. Only 9 percent of Barna’s respondents said they attend a “megachurch” with 1,000 or more members.

America’s most skeptical city? San Francisco at 24 percent.

Based in Ventura, Calif., Barna describes itself as having “carefully and strategically tracked the role of faith in America, developing one of the nation’s most comprehensive databases of spiritual indicators.”

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