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Churches and religion: How do we practice?

The modern religious landscape of the Inland Northwest, much like that of the United States as a whole continues to change, most notably driven by a decline in alignment with mainline Protestant churches in favor of evangelical and other nondenominational organizations.

The U.S. has also experienced a significant rise in people who claim to be nonreligious or don’t identify with a specific belief system.

Catholic adherence and church attendance has been largely unchanged until recently, and some falloff in Protestant congregations can be attributed to changes in immigration and increases in populations that practice non-Christian religions.

Rates of adherence per 1,000 population (2010)

The 2010 U.S. Religion Census collected data from congregations in each county across the nation, accounting for 236 faith groups. The study counts “adherents” as church members, their children and estimations from individual congregations (defined as groups of persons who gather regularly to worship) of other participants who are not considered members.

stained glass window at a chuch

In all, more than 150 million adherents (just less than 49% of the U.S. population) at least occasionally attend one of America’s 344,894 congregations. Utah tops the list at 791 adherents per 1,000 while Maine has the lowest rate at 276 adherants per 1,000.

There’s a huge difference between believing and attending

When Americans are polled about their belief in the existence of a deity they usually say “yes” at a very high rate. A 2014 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 89% of respondents believed in the possible existence of some deity, while a 2011 Gallup poll found similar results from respondents (92% of Americans answered “yes” to the same basic question).

church adherence

As you can see above, there is a marked difference in the percentage of people who generally believe in a deity and those who belong to specific congregations and regularly attend church services. A 2013 study by the Public Religion Research Institute said on average that 31% of Americans attend church at least weekly.

Spokane vs Kootenai county

How do Spokane, Kootenai counties compare?

Spokane County’s population increased by 53,282 from 2000 to 2010, a change of 12.7%. The adherent totals of the religious groups listed above included 37.0% of the total county population in 2010.

Spokane county adherence numbers

Kootenai County’s population increased by 29,809 from 2000 to 2010, a change of 27.4%. The adherent totals of the religious groups listed above included 57.7% of the total county population in 2010.

Kootenai county adherence numbers Adherence percentages of Spokane and Kootenai county

Buddhists are the largest non-Christian group in both states, while the Mormon church shows the most growth among Christian churches in both.

Changing U.S. religious landscape

From 2007-14, the Christian share of the population fell from 78.4% to 70.6%, driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. The unaffiliated experienced the most growth, and the share of Americans who belong to non-Christian faiths also increased.

Changing religious landscape

* Includes Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other world religions and other faiths. Those who did not answer the religious identity question, as well as groups whose share of the population did not change significantly, including the historically black Protestant tradition, Mormons and some others, are not shown.

Google searches for ‘church’

Popularity of “church” in Google searches by week, 2013

Google search trends unchanged