African-Americans Most Religiously Devout Group

African-Americans are the most religiously devout racial group in the nation when it comes to attending services, praying and believing that God exists, according to a recent profile.

Compared to the rest of the U.S. population, which is generally considered highly religious, African-Americans engage in religious activities more frequently and express higher levels of religious belief, Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life highlighted in a report released in time for Black History Month.

The center's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 on more than 35,000 people, found that 79 percent of African-Americans say religion is very important in their lives while 56 percent of all U.S. adults said the same. Even among African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular faith, 45 percent of them say religion is very important compared to 16 percent of the religiously unaffiliated population overall.

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Among the various racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans are the most likely to say they belong to a formal religious affiliation. An overwhelming 87 percent of African-Americans identify with a religious group, according to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Following close behind are Latinos, with 85 percent of its population associating with a religion. In comparison, 83 percent of the overall U.S. population report affiliation with a religion.

Nearly six out of ten African-Americans (59 percent) say they belong to a historically black Protestant church, according to the study. The next most popular affiliation is Evangelical Protestant churches (15 percent).

Slightly more than one out of ten (12 percent) say they are unaffiliated to a religious group.

In other noteworthy findings, African-Americans express greater comfort with religion's role in politics than other racial and ethnic groups. The black community most closely resembles white evangelical Protestants, with about six in ten saying that churches should express their views on social and political issues.

But both African-Americans and white evangelicals say churches and other houses of worship should not endorse political candidates and there should be some restrictions on mixing politics and religious institutions.

When it comes to social issues, the African-American community is nearly split on abortion, with 49 percent favoring to keep abortion legal in most or all cases, and 44 percent wanting abortion to be illegal in most or all cases.

The African-American ratio is similar to that of the general public (51 percent vs. 42 percent).

On the issue of homosexuality, 41 percent of the black community thinks it should be accepted by society, while 46 percent say that homosexuality should be discouraged.

In comparison, the overall public is more open to accepting homosexuality (50 percent vs. 40 percent).

African-Americans belonging to evangelical churches are the most likely to say homosexuality should be discouraged by society (58 percent), while religiously unaffiliated African-Americans are least likely to discourage homosexuality (32 percent).

The Landscape survey shows that across all religious groups, at least two-thirds of African-Americans voice support for the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, less than half (47 percent) of the general U.S. population describes themselves as Democrats or leaning towards the Democratic Party. Slightly more than a third (35 percent) of the total population identify with the Republican Party.

Religious affiliation did not make a major impact on political party affiliation among African-Americans, the Pew Forum analysis shows.

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