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The American tapestry of interreligious friendships

In exploring the intersection of friendship and religion in the United States, a recent survey from Pew Charitable Trust offers insightful statistics. About 61% of American adults report having friends whose religious beliefs differ from their own. This includes 43% who say only some of their friends share their religion and 18% who report that hardly any or none of their friends do. Interestingly, about 37% of U.S. adults indicate that all or most of their friends share their religion.

Demographics play a significant role in these patterns. For instance, men, younger adults, and individuals with less education are slightly more likely to have friends who do not share their religion. Specifically, 20% of U.S. adults with a high school diploma or less education fall into the category of having hardly any or no friends with the same religion, compared to 14% of those with a bachelor’s degree.

When it comes to religious identities, there are notable differences. About 39% of those who identify religiously as atheists, agnostics, or nothing in particular, have only some friends sharing their religion, and another 32% have hardly any or no such friends. In contrast, groups like members of historically Black Protestant churches and Hispanic Catholics are more likely to have friends within their religious community. For instance, 59% of members of historically Black Protestant churches and 54% of Hispanic Catholics report that all or most of their friends share their religion.

The importance of religion in individuals’ lives also affects their friendships. Among those who consider religion very or somewhat important, 44% say that all or most of their friends share their religion, compared to only 25% among those who view religion as not too or not at all important.

Additionally, while diverse religious friendships are common, most Americans do not frequently discuss religion with others. Only about 31% of U.S. adults in 2019 reported talking about religion with people outside their family at least once or twice a month. Furthermore, when confronted with religious disagreements, 62% prefer to understand the other person’s beliefs and agree to disagree, indicating a general trend towards respectful coexistence in religious matters.

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