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Survey: Half of Americans switched religions at least once

More than half of all Americans have switched religions at least once, according to an in-depth survey released Monday.

And that may still be “a conservative estimate,” said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Pew’s new Faith in Flux survey is based on re-contacting 2,800 people from its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, released last year, which surveyed 35,000 people.

Key findings:

• The reasons people give for changing their religion – or leaving religion altogether – differ widely depending on the origin and destination of the convert: 71 percent of Catholics and nearly 60 percent of Protestants who switched to another religion didn’t think their spiritual needs were being met or they just liked another faith more, or they changed their views on religious or moral beliefs.

• Life circumstances, not religious doctrinal differences, prompt most Protestants who switch denominations.

• Among the 16 percent of Americans who say they are now unaffiliated with any religion, most are former Protestants and Catholics who say they didn’t quit in a huff or get lured away by science or by atheist philosophy.

“Combined with the 44 percent of the public that currently espouses a religion different than their childhood faith, this means that roughly half of the U.S. adult population has changed religion at some point in their life,” the report said.

Taking into account the margin of error in both the original and the current survey, the Pew researchers conclude that more than half of Americans are religious switchers.

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