More than half of NJ residents say they are ‘highly religious’
You might be surprised to learn a new report ranks the Garden State among the more religious states in America.
The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank, put Jersey in a tie with Kansas and Iowa as the 19th most religious state in the nation.
The report looked at residents' worship attendance, prayer frequency, belief in god and the self-described importance of religion in one's life.
Researchers found half of respondents in New Jersey indicate religion is very important in their lives; more than a third say they go to a house of worship at least once a week; 53 percent indicate they pray daily; and 60 percent say they believe in god.
About 55 percent of New Jerseyans indicated they are "highly religious."
“Lots of people in New Jersey care about religion, and it matters in their lives, and it may even matter in terms of their social activities or even their political activities,” said Robert J. Wuthnow, a Princeton University professor widely known for his work in the sociology of religion.
He pointed out one reason why is the wide range of diversity in the state.
Wuthnow said over the years New Jersey has been predominantly Christian, “divided between a number of Protestant denominations, including Presbyterians, Reformed Church of America, Methodists, Episcopalians and so forth. And a pretty large segment of the population has been and still is Catholic.”
Recent population changes, however, have brought “a fairly significant number of Muslims and Hindus to the state, also a few Buddhists, and within the Catholic and Protestant population there is more ethnic diversity as well.”
While the Muslim population is gro wing, he says mosques are few enough and far in between, “so that they’re often fairly large and they bring people together from different national backgrounds.”
Wuthnow said a mosque near Princeton on Route 1 has an imam trained in Egypt, while the members of the mosque are from many different countries from around the world.
He noted sometimes these religious buildings function as community centers, where people from many different backgrounds will gather.
He also said while they are not strictly classified as religions, “some of the yoga groups in New Jersey have more of a spiritual component than simply an exercise component.”
Wuthnow says evangelical denominations are growing in the state, "many of which actually are non denominational, kind of community churches."
In the Pew report, Alabama was ranked the most religious state in the country.