African Americans are "markedly" more religious than others in the United States, a new study has concluded, with nearly nine in 10 black people surveyed saying they are "absolutely certain that God exists".
The Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life concludes that African Americans are "more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole".
The survey was published on the eve of the annual U.S. celebration of February as Black History Month.
The poll conducted in 2007 showed that nearly nine in 10 African Americans surveyed – 87 percent – said they have ties to a formal religious group or tradition, compared to a rate of 83 percent overall for the United States.
Pew found that African Americans are more predominately Protestant (78 percent) than the overall population (51 percent), although African American Protestantism is, like Protestantism in the United States overall, far from homogeneous. It consists of membership in historically black churches (nearly 60 percent), evangelical Protestant churches (15 percent) and so-called "mainline" Protestant churches (4 percent).
Five percent of African Americans identified themselves as Roman Catholic, while only 1 percent said they were Muslim.
About eight out of 10 African Americans, or 79 percent, surveyed told researchers that religion is "very important" in their lives. By contrast, a little more than half of all adults surveyed, or 56 percent, made the same statement.
As one concrete example of religiosity, 76 percent of African American respondents said they pray at least once a day, in contrast to just under six in 10 U.S. adults overall (58 percent).
The Pew survey indicated support among African Americans for religious institutions having a role in society. Nearly six in 10 supported the idea that churches and other houses of worship should have the right to publicly declare their positions on political and social issues.
However, a majority of those surveyed – 58 percent – said religious institutions should not formally endorse candidates for political office.
The Pew survey found that 46 percent of African Americans surveyed felt that homosexuality should be discouraged, a slightly larger percentage than the 40 percent among the public overall who felt that way.
The Pew Study is available at: www.pewforum.org/
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