Study: Maine still one of least religious states


By Edward D. Murphy

Morning Sentinel


Depending on how you look at it, a report released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center on Americans' religious affiliation shows that the rest of the country is either catching up to -- or falling to the same depths -- as Maine, one of the nation's least religious states.

The study, "'Nones' on the Rise," found that nearly one in five Americans has no religious affiliation, meaning they don't identify themselves as members of a church, synagogue or mosque. That's more than double the number who claimed no religious affiliation in 1990. Sixty-eight percent of those who told Pew researchers that they are unaffiliated with a religion still believe in God. The remainder of the unaffiliated are atheists or agnostic. . . .

Numerous studies have shown that Maine consistently ranks among the least religious states. A 2010 census conducted by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies found that 72 percent of Mainers belong to no religious organization.

That census relied on church membership figures, while the Pew study was based on a poll asking people their religious affiliation.

"These trends that Pew is picking up on are already well-established in Maine," said Mark Brewer, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine. "That trend has only gathered strength in the last three decades."

Brewer said the fact that Mainers are already less likely to claim a religious affiliation probably lessens the importance of religion in elections, since it's already an entrenched fact here. But, he added, "religion is never going to be unimportant in politics. It will always be there to some degree." . . .

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