New Edition of "Encyclopedia of American Religions"

February 1, 2003

Source: Cape Cod Times

On February 1, 2003 the Cape Cod Times reported that "The new edition of J. Gordon Melton's 'Encyclopedia of American Religions' describes 2,630 U.S. and Canadian religious groups, categorized into 26 'families' of faith"... The six families that contain the largest number of distinct groups are Pentecostal; Spiritualist, Psychic, New Age; Buddhism, Shintoism, Japanese New Religions; Hinduism, Jainism Sikhism; Majick; and Eastern Liturgical (Orthodox)... "Two points emerge to Melton from all his counting, tracking and compiling. The United States is the most religiously diverse nation in the world- especially since immigration laws loosened in 1965- though Europe as a whole is comparable. Christianity is the biggest single element: 70 percent of Americans belong to 'some brand of Christian church.' What's more distinct, Melton says, is that America 'is certainly the most religious country that has ever existed, in terms of voluntarily taking part in religion. There's no country to equal us, to date.' The turning point was World War II when 'the majority of the public became church members for the first time'... The latest encyclopedia, its seventh edition, has some 250 groups that are newly listed since the 1999 version."