Mormons and Muslims are now two of the most rapidly growing religious groups in the United States – swiping ground from the Protestants and Catholics who dominated the country throughout the 20th century.
In a census that today reveals the changing face of religious America, Muslim numbers have swelled from 1.5 million to 2.6 million – a 66 per cent rise – in the 10 years since the terrorist attacks on New York on September 11, 2001. The rise has been fueled by immigration and conversions, researchers believe.
Following closely behind is Mormonism, which rocketed by 45 per cent from 4.2 million to 6.1 million followers across the country in 2010 – gaining the most members of any religious group since 2000.
In the same period, Catholic churches reported a 5 per cent decline in membership while mainline Christian denominations noted a 12.8 per cent drop.
Spread: A map shows where members of Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints – also known as Mormons – live in the U.S. in 2010. The group gained the most members – 2 million – of any religious group in the U.S. in the 10 years since 2000
Surprising shift: As well as spread across the Midwest, new Mormon congregations have started in Florida, New Hampshire and Maine, among others
The Census of American Religious Congregations, which asked 236 religions to count their followers, gives an insight into the growth of the relatively modern religion advocated by Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The religion, whose Utah-based church’s formal name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is also spreading into more parts of the country than any other religious group.
AMERICA’S TOP TEN RELIGIONS
1. Catholic 58,936,006
2. Baptist 27,247,230
3. Methodist 12,231,451
4. Non-denominational Evangelical Protestant12,241,329
5. Lutheran 7,191,194
6. Latter-day Saints 6,356,188
7. Pentecostal 5,776,260
8. Presbyterian Reformed 5,038,406
9. Islam 2,600,082
10. Judaism 2,256,584
Classed by religious family
There are now congregations in 295 counties where they did not exist a decade ago.
Mormonism is now the largest religious body in 115 U.S. counties – 34 more than 10 years ago - and is the fastest growing across 16 states.
And while it is traditionally associated with the Mormon corridor of the West, data from the Religious Census shows it is the fastest growing religion in states including Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire and Maine.
David Campbell, from the University of Notre Dame, told the Salt Lake Tribune the swelling numbers are in part due to the high Mormon birthrate and a reasonably high retention of those born into the religion.
‘People who are raised Mormon are more likely to retain that identity when they enter adulthood,’ Campbell, who is a Mormon, said. ‘At least at a higher rate than other religions.’
The LDS Church’s central records means the faith can also keep track of members when they move away while other Christian groups do not, he said.
‘Surveys and statistics are sometimes helpful in understanding various aspects of the church, but, ultimately, we reach out to individuals, not numbers,’ LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter told the Tribune.
‘By all indicators – including the church’s building program – the church is growing and we are grateful that people are embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ.’