The Wiccan explosion
A telephone survey of 50,281 U.S. households by The Graduate Center at City University of New York, the "American Religious Identification Survey," (www.gc.cuny.edu/studies/key_findings.htm) indicates that the number of self-declared Wiccans grew from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001, doubling about every 30 months. That's an increase of 1,675 percent, or about 17-fold, the highest of any faith group monitored.
In sheer numbers, that means Wicca is more popular than such more widely-known religions as Scientology (55,000), Baha'i Faith (84,000) and Sikhs (57,000).
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance is a four-person "multi-faith agency" web site (www.religioustolerance.org) devoted to "disseminating accurate religious information" and "exposing religious fraud, hatred and misinformation." While admitting that few estimates of the Wiccan population are accurate to within 50 percent, the Ontario Consultants figures massage the CUNY statistics to arrive at its own conclusions.
Wicca is a subset of a larger religious trend, Paganism, which includes the Norse religions like Asatru, Afro-Carribean religions like Santeria and other non-mainstream beliefs. The Ontario Consultants added the number of Pagans in the ARIS survey to the number of Wiccans, subtracted an estimate of non-Wiccan Pagans and added an estimate of those Wiccans who refuse to disclose their beliefs.
The Ontario Consultants arrived at a figure of 408,000 adult Wiccans in the U.S., 750,000 including children. That would make Wicca the seventh largest organized religion, and the 10th largest religious grouping in the U.S., behind Unitarian-Universalism, with 620,000 adult members, and ahead of The Society of Friends, or Quakers, with 217,000.
Based on the ARIS survey, the Ontario Consultants states "If the latter growth rate is accurate and if it continues, then Wicca would be the third-largest religious group in the U.S. by about 2012, behind Christianity and Judaism."
Currently, that place is held by Islam, with 1,104,000 adherents.
You can email Malcolm Brenner at firstname.lastname@example.org
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