Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has just published an important report of their U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Its findings reveal tremendous religious restlessness among Americans who change religious affiliation frequently. It also demonstrated the growth of an unaffiliated population (atheist, agnostic, secular unaffiliated, and religious unaffiliated), particularly among people under 40 years of age. It also reveals that Protestantism has diminished to 51% of the population share (though evangelicals continue to gain an increasing share of the Protestant population). Catholicism also has not grown, due to the decline of its white population. However, immigration from Mexico, South America, and Asia have drastically reshaped its ethnic composition. Immigration has also impacted evangelicals more than mainline Protestant churches.
What about Asian Americans? The survey confirmed the anecdotal evidence that Asian Americans have a higher affiliation with Christianity than other religions. 45% of the Asians surveyed identified themselves as Christians (17% evangelicals, 17% Catholics, and 9% mainline Protestant). 14% identify as Hindu, 9% Buddhists, 4% Muslim, 3% other world religions or faiths. Among Buddhists, whites out number Asians 53% to 32%. 23% of the Asians surveyed were unaffiliated, the highest percentage of all racial groups.
Among East Asian immigrants, 57% are Christians (27% Catholic, 18% evangelical, 11% mainline Protestant), 14% Buddhist, and 27% unaffiliated. 55% of immigrants from South-Central Asia are Hindu, 16% Christian (9% evangelical, 3% Catholic, 2% mainline Protestant), 12% Muslim, and 11% unaffiliated.
The implications of the survey findings about Asian American religions are clear. Research about Asian American Hindus and Muslims is needed; but so is research in Asian American Christianity. — Tim Tseng