The Denver metro area is religiously diverse and it’s becoming increasingly so.
A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute – called the 2020 Census on American Religion – found that “religious diversity scores” for Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, and Jefferson counties in 2020 were all above average when compared to the rest of the U.S.
The array of religious identities in the state — where one religious subset doesn’t represent more than half of the population — doesn’t surprise Carl Raschke, professor of religious studies at the University of Denver.
“Historically, Colorado has been a place for religious freedom and religious experimentation,” Raschke said. “Colorado is a lot harder place than other parts of the country to figure out or get an actual profile out of.”
In making sense of the new PRRI data, Raschke and other experts explained that some religious groups maintain large numbers and influence because they have been around for a while. However, the Denver metro area religious landscape continues to shift in noticeable ways because a lot of people migrate to the area, both from within and outside the U.S.
Averaging data for Arapahoe, Adams, Douglas and Jefferson counties, white evangelical Christians represent 16% of the population, 8% are Hispanic Catholic, 1% are Muslim, 2% are Jewish, and 31% are religiously unaffiliated.
Across the U.S., the average for white evangelical Christians is 14%, while 8% are Hispanic Catholic, 1% are Muslim, 1% are Jewish, and 23% are religiously unaffiliated.
The county-level data is from a PRRI survey that collected hundreds of thousands of responses from adults across the country between 2013 to 2019.
Tracing similar data from previous years is difficult, given that the county-level data in the 2020 Census on American Religion is the first of its kind.
Anecdotally, Rashcke said some of the fastest-growing religious affiliations in the metro area are Muslims, Hindus, and religiously unaffiliated, also called “nones.” There are a few reasons for that.
First, Raschke said, “what’s happening in Denver is pretty much following religious and demographic trends nationwide.” What’s happening in the U.S., such as the dramatic rise of the nones, is happening here.
However, certain migration patterns also uniquely affect the Denver area’s religious makeup.