Trinity College in Hartford today is releasing the third installment of the American Religious Identification Survey, a study of religious identity in the United States based on interviews conducted last year with 54,461 people. The most dramatic finding is a sharp drop in the percentage of Catholics in New England, which has long been the nation's most Catholic region. I have a story in today's paper; here is an excerpt:
"In Massachusetts, the decline is particularly striking - in 1990, Catholics made up a majority of the state, with 54 percent of the residents, but in 2008, the Catholic population was 39 percent. At the same time, the percentage of the state's residents who say they have no religious affiliation rose sharply, from 8 percent to 22 percent.
'It's quite an amazing change,' said Barry A. Kosmin, one of the study's authors. He is the director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society & Culture, a research center at Trinity that was founded after two previous versions of the study, in 1990 and 2001, found a sharp increase in the number of Americans who say they are not religious.
'You have a transformation of the Catholic population in two ways - one is a relocation, from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt, and the second is an ethnic transformation, a replacement of Irish-Americans by Latino-Americans in the Catholic Church,' he said."
(Photo, by Janet Knott of the Globe staff, shows Immaculate Conception Church in Winchester on 3/3/2003. The parish was closed on 11/06/2004.)