The social scientific study of religion has long assumed that individuals can only identify or be affiliated with one religious tradition and can only attend one congregation. If one chooses Protestant on a survey, they cannot also be Buddhist. At the same time, surveys typically only ask questions about the respondent’s “congregation” without allowing a respondent to identify more than one. These restrictions on survey responses fail to reflect the actual lived religious experiences of Americans.
The goals of this project are to (1) create survey questions that capture multiple religious identities, affiliations, and congregational memberships, (2) collect U.S. representative survey data using these questions that accurately represent the religious experiences of Americans, and (3) examine the factors associated with and consequences of identifying multiple religious identities, affiliations, and attending multiple congregations using both survey and interview data.
We will archive the new survey measures and data, submit articles for publication, write and distribute public reports, and submit papers to present at conferences, which represent the concrete deliverables of this project. In doing so, this project will address the following Big Questions: What is the fundamental nature of religious experience? How can religious identity be fractionated into its components and why and how do people maintain multiple religious identities, affiliations, and congregational memberships simultaneously?
The findings will provide a new avenue for research using measures of multiple religious identities, affiliations, and congregational memberships that more fully represent the lived religious experiences of Americans. They will also broaden the publics’ and congregational leaders’ understanding of religious affiliations, identities, and congregational memberships.