Nearly half of U.S. Jews don’t identify with organized religion, study finds

NEW YORK (JTA) – Nearly half of U.S. Jews do not identify with organized religion, a new study by the Pew Research Center finds.

More than one in five, however, are considered “Sunday stalwarts” (or Saturday): those who “actively practice their faith, but they also are deeply involved in their religious congregations.”

The study published Wednesday defines how people practice their religion. It only includes Jews who define their religion as Judaism, or “Jews by religion.”

Conducted last December, the study of more than 4,700 respondents has a margin of error of 2.3 per cent.

Among the seven categories, 45 per cent of American Jews are listed in the two for the least religious: “religion resisters,” who believe in a higher power but have negative views of organized religion, or “solidly secular,” those who don’t believe in God and do not self-define as religious. The breakdown is 28 per cent as “solidly secular” and 17 per cent as “religion resisters.”

At the other end of the spectrum, 21 per cent of American Jews are “Sunday stalwarts.” Eight per cent are “god-and-country believers,” who express their religion through political and social conservatism, and five per cent are “diversely devout,” who follow the Bible but also believe in things like animism and reincarnation.

The somewhat religious are defined as either “relaxed religious” (14 per cent), those who believe in God and pray but don’t engage in many traditional practices, or “spiritually awake” (eight per cent), those who hold New Age beliefs and believe in heaven and hell.

Americans as a whole are more or less evenly divided among the seven groups. The largest three groups are “Sunday stalwarts,” “relaxed religious” and “solidly secular” at 17 per cent each. The smallest are “god-and-country believers” and “religion resisters” at 12 per cent each.

“Jewish Americans are the only religious group with substantial contingents at each end of the typology,” the study says.

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