➊ African American Religion

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African American Religion



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Rather, it is divided into three distinct traditions — evangelical Protestant churches, mainline Protestant churches and historically black Protestant churches. By several measures, including importance of religion in life, attendance at religious services and frequency of prayer, the historically black Protestant group is among the most religiously observant traditions. In fact, on these and other measures of religious practices and beliefs, members of historically black Protestant churches tend to resemble members of evangelical Protestant churches, another highly religious group.

African-American women also stand out for their high level of religious commitment. No group of men or women from any other racial or ethnic background exhibits comparably high levels of religious observance. African-Americans are more likely to be affiliated with a faith compared with the public overall, but as with the general population, younger African-Americans are more likely than their older counterparts to report being unaffiliated with a religion.

Additionally, black college graduates are somewhat more likely to be part of mainline Protestant and Catholic churches as compared with those from other educational backgrounds. In the Midwest and the Northeast, the number of African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion is similar to the share of the general population in these regions that is religiously unaffiliated. By contrast, in the South and the West, African-Americans are less likely to be unaffiliated compared with the overall population. In many ways, African-Americans are significantly more religious than the general population, with the vast majority considering religion very important in their lives.

African-Americans also are more religiously observant on a variety of other measures, from frequency of prayer and worship service attendance to belief in God. Consistent with this, members of historically black churches are among the most likely of any religious group to say religion is very important in their lives. Across a wide variety of religious groups, black members are more likely than members of their faiths overall to say religion is very important to them. The difference is even greater among members of mainline Protestant churches. Religion also is important in the lives of many African-Americans who are not affiliated with any particular religion.

African-Americans attend religious services and pray more frequently than the general population. This pattern is seen across most major religious traditions. Perhaps most interestingly, unaffiliated African-Americans attend religious services and pray in much higher numbers than the unaffiliated population overall. African-Americans also express higher levels of religious belief than do Americans overall. These views are held by the overwhelming majority of members of historically black churches. But even African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any religion consistently express higher levels of religious beliefs compared with the unaffiliated public overall.

For instance, black members of evangelical Protestant churches and the more religiously observant express more conservative views than those who are unaffiliated with any particular religion or are less religiously observant. But these religiously based differences tend to be smaller in the African-American community than in the population as a whole. And on some political issues, there are few religious divides to speak of within the black community. Perhaps the most striking of these is partisanship, with the vast majority of African-Americans of all religious backgrounds expressing support for the Democratic Party.

Members of evangelical churches and the most religiously committed members of all religious groups are most likely to describe themselves as conservative, while those who are unaffiliated and less religiously committed are among the least likely to describe themselves as such. While this is true among both African-Americans and the general population, these differences are much smaller among African-Americans. For example, among African-Americans, members of evangelical churches and those who are most religiously observant are just as likely to describe their ideology as moderate as to say they are conservative; by contrast, among the general population, the same groups are much more likely to say they are conservative than moderate or liberal.

Similar links exist among African-Americans as among the general population when it comes to religion and views on social issues such as abortion and homosexuality. But once again, the religiously based differences on these issues are less pronounced among African-Americans than in the overall population. Among both African-Americans and the general population, those who are most religiously observant are more likely to think that abortion should be illegal. The same is true when it comes to religious observance, with the most religiously observant African-Americans most likely to say that homosexuality should be discouraged, a similar pattern as seen among the overall population.

But, once again, the differences between the most and least religiously observant are more pronounced in the population overall than among African-Americans. Among both African-Americans and whites, however, evangelical Protestants are much more opposed to gay marriage than are mainline Protestants. Even though African-Americans generally are comfortable with the notion that politics should be influenced and informed by religion, they also support certain limitations on the mingling of politics and religious institutions.

Among the population overall, two-thirds take this point of view. Regardless of their religious background, African-Americans overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party. Across all religious groups, at least two-thirds of African-Americans express support for the Democratic Party. African-Americans also support the Democrats by wide margins regardless of their overall level of religious commitment; in the general population, by contrast, religious commitment is linked with differences in party affiliation.

Only a small number, 4 percent, of African-Americans belong to mainline Protestant churches, and only 5 percent are Catholic. Fewer than 5 percent of African-Americans claim any faith other than Christianity, and 12 percent are not affiliated with any religious group. Among African-Americans, 88 percent firmly believe in God, 55 percent believe the Bible is the literal word of God, 83 percent believe in angels and demons, 58 percent believe in life after death and 84 percent believe in miracles. Even the most religious African-Americans are just as likely to describe themselves as politically moderate as politically conservative.

Forty-nine percent of African-Americans believe abortion should be legal in most cases and 44 percent believe it should not be; 60 percent believe churches should express their political views, but 60 percent also believe churches should not tell their members how to vote. As previously stated, African-Americans are more religious than the general population. In addition to higher church attendance, they are more likely to say religion is very important in their lives: 79 percent of African-Americans express this view, compared with 56 percent of all Americans. African-Americans are more likely to pray, with 76 percent claiming to pray daily, compared with 58 percent of all Americans. Even among African-Americans with no religious affiliation, 70 percent believe in God and almost half pray daily.

Janet Clark has written professionally since She writes about education, careers, culture, parenting, gardening and social justice issues. Clark graduated from Buena Vista University with a degree in education. She has written two novels, "Blind Faith" and "Under the Influence. Regardless of how old we are, we never stop learning. Classroom is the educational resource for people of all ages. Based on the Word Net lexical database for the English Language.

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