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14.7C: Widespread Belief

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    Christianity is the largest religion in the United States, with around 77% of the population identifying itself as Christian.

    Learning Objectives

    • Identify the most common and popular religions in the United States

    Key Points

    • Christian denominations in the U.S. are usually divided into three large groups: Evangelical, Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic.
    • The mainline Protestant Christian denominations were brought to the U.S. by its historic immigrant groups; for this reason they are sometimes referred to as heritage churches.
    • Other parts of the world have different widespread beliefs. Islam, for example, dominates the Middle East.

    Key Terms

    • Roman Catholicism: The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world’s largest Christian church, with more than one billion members worldwide.
    • Mainline Protestantism: Mainline Protestant (also sometimes called “mainstream American Protestant”) are certain Protestant churches in the United States that comprised a majority of Americans from the colonial era until the early 20th century.
    • evangelicalism: Protestant movement basing its theology almost entirely on Scripture, which is held to be inerrant.

    It is common for many societies to be dominated by a single widespread belief. For example, Christianity is the largest and most popular religion in the United States, with around 77% of those polled identifying themselves as Christian as of 2009. Protestant denominations accounted for 51.3%, while Roman Catholicism, at 23.9%, was the largest individual denomination. One study categorizes white evangelicals, 26.3% of the population, as the country’s largest religious cohort, while another study estimates evangelicals of all races at 30–35%. Christianity was introduced to the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries by European colonization.

    Today, most Christian denominations in the United States are divided into three large groups: Evangelicalism, Mainline Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Christian denominations that do not fall within either of these groups are mostly associated with ethnic minorities, i.e. the various denominations of Eastern Orthodoxy. Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement. In typical usage, the term mainline is contrasted with evangelical. Most adherents consider its key characteristics to be:

    • a belief in the need for personal conversion (or being “born again”)
    • some expression of the gospel
    • a high regard for Biblical authority
    • an emphasis on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

    Other parts of the world have different widespread beliefs. Islam, for example, dominates the Middle East, with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, and Niger having 90% or more of their population identifying as Muslim. Islam is also the state religion in areas of Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

    Worldwide Muslim Population: As the map shows, certain regions are dominated by widespread beliefs.
    Christian Flag at Covenant Presbyterian Church: The Christian flag displayed with the flag of the USA; note the finials on the flag poles. This is next to the pulpit and baptismal font in Covenant Presbyterian Church, Long Beach, California, USA;

    14.7C: Widespread Belief is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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