In 1620 the Mayflower arrived at the site that is now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. The ship carried 102 passengers who had originally left England to live in Holland, where they hoped to live and worship freely. Most of the men, women, and children were known as Separatists and wished to break away from the Church of England.
After being disappointed by the lifestyle Holland had to offer, this group sought to begin a new life in the unexplored lands of America. Their settlement at Plymouth soon proved successful enough for others to follow, eventually leading to the original thirteen colonies that declared independence from England and earned freedom as the United States of America.
This quest for freedom of worship led to the birth of a free nation. Nearly 400 years later, America’s people practice many different religions, as the residents who make up the population today have descended from many different regions and countries. While the Separatists who arrived on the Mayflower aimed to practice a specific religion, Americans are free today to worship however they may choose.
Among the religions currently practiced in America are the following:
Today most of America’s residents are Christians, with approximately three-fourths of the population falling into this category. Most Christian denominations believe that Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven to reign with God the Father.
In America, the Catholic Church leads the way with nearly 70 million members, while the Southern Baptist and United Methodist churches combine for more than 25 million followers. Other divisions of Christianity found in America include Mormonism, Adventism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Following Christianity, America’s second-largest religious affiliation is Judaism. Jewish followers account for approximately six million citizens, with approximately two percent of the population practicing the religion. Some studies show that American Jews consider being Jewish as much of an ethnic identity as it is a religious identity.
Nearly one percent of Americans practice Islam. In the U.S. the religion dates back to the arrival of African slaves. While most of the slaves eventually became Christians in America, a small percentage remained faithful to their Muslim and Islamic faiths.
Followers of Buddhism and Hinduism account for approximately another one percent of Americans, while many of the country’s citizens practice faiths like Jainism, Sikhism, and Baha’i. On the other hand, a small percentage practice for
With most of the nation practicing Christian religions, many of American’s citizens spend time in churches each week. While approximately 40% of Americans attend church services regularly, the state of Mississippi leads the country with more than 60% of its citizens attending services each week. At the opposite end is Vermont, where one-fourth of the state’s residents are regulars at church.
America contains many church buildings that have survived hundreds of years. St. Luke’s Church, an Episcopal church in Smithfield, Virginia, was built in 1632 and is considered the oldest church in one of the original thirteen colonies. New Mexico’s San Miguel Mission, a Catholic church in Santa Fe, was built in 1610. Puerto Rico, an American territory, is home to both the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista (1521) and Porta Coeli (1609), both Catholic churches.
Other historic churches in America include the Old Indian Meeting House in Mashpee, Massachusetts, which is the oldest Native American church. The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow is the oldest church building in New York, while the Six Principle Baptist Church in Rhode Island may be the oldest Baptist church in the country.
Because the Mayflower pilgrims risked their lives to reach America in 1620, the citizens of the United States now have the opportunity to practice any religion they choose. With most of the country’s residents belonging to a church of some kind, religion is a large part of American life today. Just as the buildings are being preserved, so are the religious customs and traditions of a country built on the idea of freedom of worship.