By Aaron Earls
Almost half (46 percent) of Americans say they have talked with their immediate family about religion at least once or twice in the last month, according to Pew Research.
Much fewer had similar conversations with extended family (27 percent) and people outside their family (33 percent).
When it comes to who’s having those religious conversations with family and friends, it’s particularly evangelicals and black Protestants.
The majority of evangelicals talked about religion in the last month with their immediate family (70 percent) and people outside their family (55 percent). Fewer than half (44 percent) spoke with extended family.
Most black Protestants also had religious conversations with immediate family (61 percent) and extended family (51 percent). Close to half (49 percent) talked to people outside their family.
No other group—mainline Protestants, Catholics, adherents of non-Christian faiths, Jews, or the unaffiliated—had a majority in any category.
Devotion to a religion also had a significant impact on a person’s likelihood of having engaged in a recent religious conversation. This is especially true among evangelicals.
The gaps between the highly religious evangelicals—defined by Pew as those who say they pray every day and go to religious services weekly—and other evangelicals are larger than the gaps between the two groups among either mainline Protestants or Catholics.
Highly religious evangelicals are much more likely than other evangelicals to have talked religion in the past month with their immediate family (88 percent to 53 percent), extended family (62 percent to 26 percent), and people outside their family (77 percent to 33 percent).
If those conversations turn to disagreements, evangelicals and black Protestants are also the most likely to say they would try to persuade the other person. Ten percent of each group says they would attempt to change the other person’s mind.
Among all Americans, 5 percent say they think the best thing to do when someone disagrees about religion is persuade them. Most (67 percent) say they try to understand the other person and agree to disagree. A quarter of Americans say they avoid discussing religion after a disagreement.
Highly religious evangelicals are much more motivated—16 percent believe persuading the other person is the best thing. But that is still less than the number who say to simply avoid discussing religion (18 percent) once the conversation turns argumentative.
Essentially the same percentage of both highly religious evangelicals (70 percent) and other evangelicals (71 percent) say they try to agree to disagree after a disagreement.
Catholics, both the highly religious and not, are the most likely to avoid discussing religion after a disagreement.
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AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@Lifeway.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.