Religion in New Jersey — How Many of Us Believe in God?
Countless New Jerseyans gathered with loved ones on Easter, and many are doing the same for Passover, which ends on Saturday. But how many folks actually believe in what they're commemorating, or practice a religion at all?
The latest statistics from the Pew Research Center claim New Jersey is tied with Kansas and Iowa as the 19th-most religious state in the country.
Ranking 27th nationwide, 50 percent of New Jersey residents said religion is "very important" in their lives, according to the data dating back to 2014.
Compared to the national average, more New Jerseyans identify with a religion. Nearly two-thirds considered themselves Christians, including 34 percent who said they're Catholic. Non-Christian faiths accounted for 14 percent of New Jersey respondents, and 18 percent said they're unaffiliated with a religion.
"We have a sizable Catholic population here, and historically that makes sense given the strong Irish and Italian Catholic communities that have been here in New Jersey for some time," said KC Choi, chair of the religion department at Seton Hall University.
Choi said there's a general perception that individuals in the Northeast are "secular or remotely religious," compared to other segments of the country, but New Jersey does not fit that generalization.
On the survey's ranking of the most religious states, however, the bottom five spots are represented by states in the Northeast.
Of the New Jersey adults surveyed, 60 percent said they are "absolutely certain" God exists. Another 24 percent said they're fairly certain. Those numbers are down slightly from 2007.
Seventy-two percent said they believe Heaven exists, but just 52 percent believe in Hell. Those numbers are identical or near-identical to the findings from seven years prior.
While the statistics give us a broad snapshot of religion's presence in the Garden State, individuals' true understanding of the religion with which they identify is a different story, Choi noted.
"Whether or not religion is a priority for New Jerseyans — that's a more difficult question," Choi said.
Thirty-five percent of New Jersey adults said they attend religious services at least once a week. Thirty-eight percent said they're in attendance either a couple times monthly or a few times yearly. More than half of the respondents said they pray daily.