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White Evangelicals among the least likely to be 'proud' of America's increasing religious diversity

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A person prays at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Baitus-Salaam Mosque during an open mosque event at which members of the public are invited to see how Ahmadiyya Muslims pray, in Hawthorne, California December 18, 2015. |

While the vast majority of Americans are “proud” of how increasingly religiously diverse their nation is becoming, a recent study reports that white Evangelical and Hispanic Protestants are less likely to embrace religious diversity.

The joint study from Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Interfaith America primarily utilizes data compiled by PRRI as part of its 2021 American Values Atlas and its 2021 American Values Survey. 

In the American Values Survey of over 2,508 respondents from across the 50 states, 70% say they are proud to be part of a nation that is becoming more religiously diverse. The respondents were surveyed between Sept. 16 and Sept. 29, 2021.

Two-thirds of black Protestants (66%) and about three-quarters of white Catholics (73%), Hispanic Catholics (74%) and white mainline (non-Evangelical) Protestants (77%) said the same. 

White evangelical Protestants (53%) and Hispanic Protestants (41%) were less likely than other religious groups to agree that they are proud to be part of a nation that is becoming more religiously diverse.

Religiously unaffiliated Americans (78%) and non-Christian religious Americans (86%) overwhelmingly agreed with that statement.

“We are the world’s first attempt at religiously diverse democracy, and we are the most religiously diverse nation in human history,” said Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith America. “It is time to write the chapter after Judeo-Christian in the great story of American diversity. The goal of Interfaith America, the organization, is to help build Interfaith America the nation.”

Citing an August 2021 PRRI survey of over 5,415 respondents, the study states that around two-thirds of Americans also reject the idea that “God intended America to be a new promised land where European Christians could create a society that could be an example to the rest of the world.” 

Less than a third of all Americans — 31% — agreed with the statement, with white Evangelical Protestants forming the only religious majority (52%) in agreement with that statement. 

The percentage of Americans who identify as “white Christians” dropped from 59% in 2004 to 44% last year, according to a comparison of data from Pew Research Center surveys, PRRI surveys and the PRRI American Values Atlas.

The steepest declines occurred during the Obama administration from 2008 to 2016.

About 53% in 2010 identified as white Christians compared to 43% in 2016, before the trend flattened out in the post-Obama era.

The number of American Christians of color, meanwhile, jumped from nearly 15% in 1990 to 25% in 2021, the study indicates, citing the 1990 General Social Survey and the 2021 American Values Atlas based on approximately 50,000 bilingual telephone interviews conducted across the calendar year.

PRRI also found that while there were more than nine times as many white Christians as religiously unaffiliated Americans in 1990, that ratio has since shrunk to less than two to one.

Americans appeared to be at least aware of the trends.

Majorities of several religious groups interviewed for the PRRI American Values Survey agree with the statement, “America is in danger of losing its culture and identity.” This includes 78% of white Evangelical Protestants, 64% of white Catholics, 59% of white mainline (non-Evangelical) Protestants and 52% of black Protestants.

Less than half of Hispanic Catholics (43%), non-Christian religious Americans (37%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (35%) agreed with that statement.

“In recent decades, we have seen tectonic shifts in the religious diversity of our nation as well as a marked increase in Americans’ willingness and desire to work across religious lines,” PRRI Founder and CEO Robert P. Jones said in a statement.

“Such times of cultural change often fuel fear but also generate opportunity. We applaud Interfaith America’s mission of building bridges between people of different faiths, providing much needed critical infrastructure to foster collaboration and understanding.”

The report’s findings were announced as part of a rebranding announcement from Interfaith America, previously known as Interfaith Youth Core.

Interfaith America describes itself as “guided by a vision of an America that embraces religious diversity as a foundational strength” and works toward “making that inclusive vision a reality for all.”

Founded in 2002, Interfaith America is supported by several donors, including Mackenzie Scott, former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Scott had given $6 million to Interfaith America, according to the group.

CP reached out to Patel for further comment on the study but didn't immediately receive a reply.

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