Pew Study Classifies Americans Using Spiritual Traits

(CN) – A new Pew Research Center study on religion in America finds that people fall into one of seven categories of belief, or lack thereof, based on their values and behavior.

The religious typology analysis released Wednesday classifies Americans using their spiritual traits and characteristics rather than their denomination or religious affiliation.

From the highly religious (39 percent) to the nonreligious (29 percent) and the somewhat religious (32 percent) in between, Americans of all belief systems have been categorized by Pew researchers based on a survey of 4,729 people in December of 2017.

“The new typology sorts Americans into seven groups based on the religious and spiritual beliefs they share, how actively they practice their faith, the value they place on their religion, and the other sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives,” the study says.

Pew’s classifications range from “Sunday stalwarts” on one end of the spectrum to the “solidly secular” on the other.

Three categories are considered highly religious. “Sunday stalwarts” top the list and include 17 percent of Americans who actively practice their faith and are deeply involved in their congregations. Two-thirds of them say their religious faith is “the single most important source of meaning in their lives,” according to the study.

“God-and-country believers” make up 12 percent of the population and are less active in their religious organization but hold many traditional beliefs. They also tend to lean right on social and political issues and approve more of President Donald Trump’s performance than other groups, Pew found.

The third highly religious group is the “diversely devout.” Eleven percent of those surveyed fell into this category, in which most believe in God “as described in the Bible” as well as New Age beliefs regarding psychics, reincarnation and spiritual energy located in physical things, the study says.

Two categories were described as somewhat religious – the “relaxed religious” (17 percent of Americans) and the “spiritually awake” (15 percent.) People in the latter category rarely practice religion in traditional ways but believe in a heaven and hell, as well as New Age beliefs, while those in the former group say it’s not necessary to believe in God to be a moral person but that religion is important to them.

In the nonreligious sector, 12 percent of respondents were described by Pew researchers as “religion resisters” – people who feel that organized religion does more harm than good and tend to be politically liberal and vote Democratic.

The least religious group in the new typology are the “solidly secular,” the 17 percent of Americans who have virtually no religious beliefs and also reject New Age beliefs. It is the only group who say that they do not believe in God or any kind of higher power.

People in the “religion resisters” and “solidly secular” categories are generally younger and more educated, with 40 percent having college degrees.

Those curious about where they land on the spiritual spectrum can take the 16-question quiz available on Pew’s website.

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