Religious Denominations in the United States

There is no shortage of religious denominations in America. According to most estimates, there are upwards of 200 reasonably sized Christian denominations alone in America.

The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) website contains an impressive amount of information about the religious makeup of the United States. Despite the increasing influence of secularism in America, Christians still make up about 70-80% of the American population, with the exact number depending on how “Christian” is defined. Here’s a chart of how other religions stack up:

 

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Percent of American population that adheres to each religion

American Christianity can typically be divided into smaller groups based on common beliefs. Most broadly, Christians can be thought of as being either Catholic or Protestant. Based on fairly recent estimates, there are about twice as many Protestant Christians in America than there are Catholics. Using information from ARDA, I created a map of the United States that shows if there are more Catholic or Protestant Christians in each state:

1. Prot Cat Map

 

As you can see, the vast majority of states (42 of them) have more Protestant Christians than Catholics. Only 8 states, all situated on the upper East Coast, have more Catholics than Protestants.

The Protestant Christian category can be further subdivided into Mainline Protestants and Evangelical Protestants. The Mainline Protestant category would include, for example, certain Reformed churches like the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the Episcopal Church. This category also includes the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Many of these churches are more theologically liberal than their Evangelical Protestant counterparts.

The other category, Evangelical Protestant, is typically composed of various Baptist, Pentecostal, Anglican, and some Reformed churches. This category would also include the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Most churches in the Evangelical category are known for being theologically and socially conservative.

Broken down into percentage, about 60% of Protestants belong to Evangelical churches, while the other 40% belong to Mainline churches.

There are a few other religious groups that have a strong showing in America, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Judaism, and Islam. Using information from ARDA, I created another two maps that show the largest and second largest denominations in each state:

2. Largest Denomination.png

3. Second Largest.png

Only two non-Christian religious groups show up on these maps –

  1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons (although they are widely considered by many to be just another Christian group, their vast theological differences from historical Christianity are enough, in my mind, to consider them far outside of the Christian Church.) Looking between both of the above maps, it’s obvious that the Mormon Church has a great foothold in the Westernmost states, and, interestingly, Hawaii.
  2. Orthodox Judaism, which is the second largest religious denomination in New York

You might note that even in many states that have more Protestants than Catholics, the Catholic Church is still the largest single denomination. This is because Protestantism is so divided into different denominations and the number is split between them.

On the first map, it can be easily seen that the Southern Baptist Convention is the most prominent religious group in states around the “Bible Belt,” a region that is well-known for Evangelical Protestants with social conservatism.

On the second map, it’s also apparent that Lutheranism has a good showing within the Northeastern Midwest in the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is very prominent in these states, and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod is the second largest denomination in Nebraska, only behind the Catholic Church.

The United Methodist Church has an impressive number of adherents in the middle of the Eastern portion of America, and is actually the denomination with the most adherents in West Virginia.

In Maryland, Alaska, and New Jersey, non-denominational Christians were the second largest “group.” I put them on the map because I thought it was very interesting that there were that many Christians without a denomination. If non-denominational Christians aren’t considered for this map (due to the fact that they are, as per their name, not a denomination), then the second largest group in Alaska is the Mormon Church, the second largest in Maryland is the United Methodist Church, and the second largest in New Jersey is Islam.

Here’s an interesting factoid: During the process of gathering information for these maps, I visited all 50 states’ Wikipedia pages to look for summaries of their religious demographics. Out of all of the 50 states, Vermont’s page was the only one that did not contain a section on religious demographics. In fact, the words “religion” and “Christian” do not even appear at all on Vermont’s Wikipedia page.


 

Although many of the more mainstream groups within American Christianity have abandoned some of the most basic Christian Biblical principles, we still ought to be thankful that the vast majority of Americans at least identify themselves as Christians. It is our mission as followers of Christ to live out our vocations and contribute to the things that make this nation great.

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Christianity and Evolution – Compatible or Contradictory?

“Theistic evolution is the proposition that God is in charge of the biological process called evolution. God directs and guides the unfolding of life forms over millions of years. Theistic evolution contends that there is no conflict between science and the Biblical book of Genesis.” [1]
Worldview Warfare
Across the world, in churches of varying denominations, faithful Christians are having their scriptural beliefs and worldviews compromised. As the values of secular culture continue to seep in through the cracks of unsuspecting churches, more and more Christians are trading their beliefs for those of the world. These ideological assaults on churches are easily visible in the debates and issues prevalent in our modern culture. The clash of worldviews on abortion, homosexuality, and evolution rage on around us and in our lives, with Christianity generally making a stand for the “conservative” side.
Each of these three topics would take pages and pages to cover, and that would barely scratch the surface. I want to address all of these issues eventually, but right now I am focusing on only one of them.
The Rise of Theistic Evolution
The historic and ancient Christian Church, with very few exceptions, has always accepted the creation account of Genesis 1 to be literal history. The acceptance of this interpretation has been on a decline ever since the foundations of evolutionary biology were established by Charles Darwin in the 1800s. To be fair, Darwin’s theory of natural selection is not completely synonymous with modern evolutionary theory. However, it did lay the foundation from which an evolutionary worldview would soon be born.
The problem of theistic evolution can by no means be discussed in full in just a few paragraphs, but I hope to present a general understanding of some of the dangers of theistic evolution.
I’m not trying to engage in an ad hominem attack on Christians who accept evolution. They are, for the most part, well-meaning Christians who simply want to remain Christian, but feel as if believing in creation labels them as uneducated fundamentalists. Seeing the evidence of evolution paraded around by biologists, paleontologists, and geologists, they can’t help but accept evolution as a fact. I’m not stating a scientific argument for creation and against evolution. I simply want to discuss the implications of believing that God used evolution (over millions of years) to create humans.
Theistic evolution, in summary, is the belief that God created the universe and all that is in it, but did not do so in just six days. Creationists believe that all animals and organisms in the world were present at the time God stopped creating, on the seventh day. Theistic evolutionists believed that God created and developed the natural world through the process of evolution of a long period of time.
Understanding the Text
Believing in creation is not just an issue of examining historical evidence and seeing that it points to a young earth. Rather, it is also an issue of taking God’s Word at face value. By examining the historical context of the books of the Bible (isagogics), and using the context of Scripture as a whole, theologians are able to understand when the Bible is speaking in a literal sense, and when it is speaking in a symbolic sense. The visions found in Daniel 7, along with the book of Revelation, are examples of symbolic literature. They are inspired and inerrant, just like all of Scripture, but they use dramatic and vivid imagery to convey what God has to say.
The entire book of Genesis was meant to be a literal history of God’s creation of the world, in addition to a testament of His mercy toward His people. It is presented and portrayed, from beginning to end, as a historical account. There is nothing in the text that would signify a shift from symbolism to history at the end of the creation account. This is very important to understand, as it makes the basis for the most important arguments against theistic evolution.
Jesus’ Mention of Creation
In Mark 10, when Jesus is confronted on the topic of marriage and divorce, states that “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’” Now, taken at face value, Jesus’ language seems to suggest that humans were there at the beginning of the world. One could make an argument that Jesus only said “from the beginning of creation” because it’s what the Jewish people believed, they themselves holding to a view of six-day creation. One can claim that Jesus only meant “from the beginning of creation” in a symbolic sense. But as is the rule for Biblical interpretation, we always take the plainest and simplest meaning of the text unless the context would tell us to do otherwise.
The Problem of Death
One of the bigger issues with theistic evolution is the way it deals with death. We are told in Genesis 1:31 that God saw His creation as “very good” after He had finished creating. His creation was good because it was perfect: there was no trace of sin and death, because God didn’t create it that way. In order to hold to a view of theistic evolution, one must believe that God formed the universe and started the “evolutionary chain of events” that would transform primitive organisms into humans over millions of years.
Evolution requires two major things to succeed: time and death. In order for organisms to evolve into more advanced creatures, the weakest animals need to die, only allowing the stronger ones to reproduce. Transition of one organism into another species requires generation after generation of that organism to die off in order than stronger and better versions of that organism can take their place. Millions and millions of years of natural selection and death are necessary for evolution to take place. In order to hold to theistic evolution, one must believe that God created a world that was filled with death.
However, Paul tells us in Romans 5:12 that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.” Paul is clearly stating that sin is a prerequisite and cause of death entering the world. Sin only came into the world after Adam disobeyed God, so death did not exist in God’s creation before the Fall of Man. Believing that God used death and evolution to produce mankind seems to lie contrary to what the Bible tells us about sin, death, and the Fall of Man.
Jesus, the New Adam
Most theistic evolutionists see Adam and Eve as allegorical representations of the first human beings, not as real historic people that lived in the Garden of Eden. However, the doctrine of justification discussed by Paul in Romans hinges on the fact that just as Adam was the one man who brought death into the world, Christ is the one man who undid Adam’s curse. As written in Romans 5:17 – For if, by the trespass of the one man (Adam), death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Jesus is and his saving work is the exact antithesis of Adam and his fall into sin. If Adam were only a symbol of the first men, and death existed in God’s original creation, the redemptive work of Christ is undermined. We are made righteous in Christ the same way we were all made sinful through Adam. “Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18). The redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the New Adam, has undone the work of the Old Adam.
Can we Trust the Bible?
Ultimately, when the authenticity of the historical accounts written in the Bible is brought into question, the accuracy of the entire Scriptures is endangered. Once a certain story is labelled as a myth, it raises doubt about the rest of the history recorded in Genesis. The entire book of Genesis, as true history, is an absolutely vital piece of God’s plan for salvation. The lives of Israel’s Fathers, such as Abraham and Jacob, are referenced frequently in the New Testament as testimony to the Truth of Christ. If the entire Bible isn’t trusted as inerrant, it leads to the picking and choosing of only the doctrines we find agreeable. When it comes to inerrancy, it’s either all or nothing.
There are many objections that theistic evolutionists can raise to refute the problems listed here. However, for a more thorough treatment, check out these websites for great scientific and theological material challenging evolution:
Creation Ministries International (and this article on the dangers of theistic evolution)

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

-Acts 17:24-25 (ESV)