Portrait of Emerging Religions in America

January 16, 2002

January 16, 2002 -  NEW YORK -- The American Jewish Committee today released the second in a series of reports on emerging religions in the United States.
Religious Diversity in America: The Emergence of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, by Dr. Tom W. Smith, focuses on three of the major faiths outside of Christianity and Judaism that are part of America's increasingly diverse religious landscape.

The full report can be found at our  website.

In his report, Dr. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, examines the changing religious composition of the United States over the last generation.

Of those following a religion other than Christianity and Judaism, about half of them are adherents of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, according to Dr. Smith. Until recently, these faiths had not been a prominent part of America's religious scene.

"In recent decades American society has been further enriched by the addition and growth of a variety of faith groups," said Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, the American Jewish Committee's national director of interreligious affairs. AJC has long spearheaded Jewish outreach to leadership of other religions in the United States – and around the world.

In his first report on emerging religions, which was published last October, Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States, Dr. Smith concluded that the Muslim population totals about 1.9 million.

In his new report, Dr. Smith reviews the conclusions on the Muslim population and assesses the demography of the Buddhist and Hindu populations.

Contemporary estimates based on surveys of the Buddhist share of the adult population range from 0.2-0.6 percent, reports Dr. Smith, who concludes that the total number of Buddhists in America is about 1.4 million.

Dr. Smith estimates that the Hindu population is between 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent of the American population, ranging from 844,000 to 1,126,000.

"Religions outside of Judaism and Christianity make up a small, but growing, share of America's religious mosaic," observes Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith's other studies for the American Jewish Committee include What do Americans think About Jews (1991); Anti-Semitism in Contemporary America (1994); A Survey of the Religious Right (1996); and the forthcoming book, Intergroup Relations in A Diverse America (2002).


Contact: Kenneth Bandler (212) 891-6771 PR@ajc.org

        Lisa Fingeret Roth (212) 891-1385 rothl@ajc.org

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