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Top 10 American Religions, part one

Updated on April 30, 2014

Religion in America

The United States is well-known for its emphasis on religious freedom, both politically and culturally. Religious freedom is one of the foundational principles of the American republic, and has always been considered by Americans to be one of their most important traditions. Not only have countless belief systems from around the world come to the US, but a diverse group of faith communities have also been born in America. These are the top ten American-born religions and religious traditions, in order of influence and size.

Part one lists numbers 1 and 2, part two lists numbers 3-5, and part three lists numbers 6-10.

1. Adventism

Adventism is a Protestant movement that was begun in the 19th century. It was led by William Miller, a preacher who famously predicted the second coming of Christ for 1844. When the date came and went, the non-event was dubbed the "Great Disappointment," and Miller's movement lost a large number of followers.

In 1845 a conference was held among the movement's remaining followers in Albany, New York, and Adventism was formally born. The Seventh-day Adventists were one of four main groups that emerged from the conference. Ellen White, who began having visions soon after the Great Disappointment, was a prolific writer on a variety of topics, and one of the most notable early leaders of Seventh-day Adventism. The Seventh-day Adventist church was formally established in 1863.

Seventh-day Adventists share many core beliefs with Protestantism. Unique beliefs and practices include holding the Sabbath on Saturday; the idea that humans are an indivisible unity of body, mind and soul and the soul is not immortal; and that the second coming of Christ is imminent.

Today they are the largest church within the Adventist movement. There are over 16 million Seventh-day Adventists in the world, with tens of thousands more belonging to other Adventist communities. The Seventh-day Adventists are one of the largest single religious bodies in the world, by number of members, and their membership is significantly dispersed among countries.

Seventh-day Adventist church

A Seventh-day Adventist church in Georgia
A Seventh-day Adventist church in Georgia | Source
Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney | Source

2. Mormonism

Mormonism traces its history to the movement founded by Joseph Smith in the 1820s in New York. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is by far the largest faith community within the Mormon tradition, with about 14 million members around the world.

Joseph Smith was believed to have had visions of God and Jesus Christ, and established what followers believed was the true Christian church. Smith dictated the Book of Mormon, which claimed that early Native Americans were actually Israelites who had received Jesus' message long ago. Upon the revelations of Joseph Smith, the original church was reestablished and its prophets and apostles (including Smith himself and Brigham Young) enjoy significant doctrinal authority.

Persecuted in New York and the Midwest, the vast majority of Mormons eventually settled in Utah in the mid 19th century. By the early 20th century, the mainstream LDS Church had given up polygamy under heavy pressure from the rest of American society and the US government. Today polygamy is still practiced by isolated Mormon fundamentalist communities, as are other traditions such as racist restrictions on the participation of black members, eliminated by the mainstream church in the 1970s in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement.

Mormonism has more or less entered the American religious mainstream. Today well-known Mormons include television and radio opinionator Glenn Beck and Massachusetts Governor and Presidential contender Mitt Romney.

Mormon Temple in San Diego


Next in the series is Part Two, which lists the third, fourth and fifth most significant American-born religions.


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    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      secularist10 - I did find it strange someone would post something like that on one of your hubs. The joke is on me - lol!

    • secularist10 profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from New York City

      Say--just FYI, "Jim" was a spam comment.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Jim - you should probably start with your local Adventist church. If there's an Adventist university near you, check them out also. Even a local high school (they call high school "academy" can give you information.

      I need to warn you against one thing though. DO NOT go to Amazing Facts! They are a cult offshoot, and the Seventh Day Adventist church does not recognize them. That is the cult my niece dropped out of high school to join. Seeing as SDAs place tremendous value on education, you can understand why the SDA church does not endorse Amazing Facts.

      Best of luck to you!

      P.S. This link might help you get started:

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I grew up Seventh Day Adventist. They are very much into healthy and wholesome living. They also have the second largest distribution of parochial schools in the world; only the Catholics, who have been around a lot longer, have a larger one. They also have a great number of hospitals throughout the world. Did you know Jack LaLane, who started the video fitness movement back in the 1960s, was a Seventh Day Adventist? He was born sickly, converted to the religion as a youth, and as a result got into healthy living and body building. He lived to be 97 years old.

      I currently have serious issues with Christianity, but that does not include the denomination of Seventh Day Adventist. While not perfect, I have noticed they tend to be more ethical than many other denominations. Just about everywhere you go, you can walk into an SDA church, and you have instant family. Their institutions also have less shady dealings than other ones; I know of no horrific scandals at their schools (I attended one).

      I do not consider the SDA church heretical. I find far more fault with Christianity than Seventh Day Adventists!

    • profile image

      Helen Hevener 

      5 years ago

      I have been a Seventh Day Adventist for 56 years- born and raised one- and the comment about men being required to have facial hair for someone to be a leader in the church is totally wrong. Most of our pastors have been very clean shaven- the preacher we have at Staunton, VA SDA church right now- has no facial hair whatsoever. Augusilver you may be thinking about the Amish on that- the married Amish men are required to have a beard- but no mustache!!!

    • secularist10 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from New York City

      "Biblical" is in the eye of the beholder.

    • profile image

      Pastor Owens 

      6 years ago

      Adventist are totally biblical. They believe in Christ, the ress. and his coming. They also believe in the ten commandments including the 4th which talks about the bible sabbath. Please visit an Adventist Church on Saturday at 11:00 and you will see the truth.

    • secularist10 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New York City

      Ha, just American-born ones for these hubs. Although I was considering doing another series on religious traditions born in England, of which there seem to be a disproportionate number.

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 

      7 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Of course they would view others as heretics, indeed, to be anything in religion one needs to be viewed as a heretic at first, Christ was by the Sanhedrin, and Luther was by the RCC, so the two most prominent changing forces of Christianity started of as heretics.

      I have some friends who would call me a heretic for some of my viewpoints, and others who would call them worse for their stances.

      Personally I believe that God has hidden His people in amongst the 33,000 denominations that are running now.... you will be covering all 33,000 I presume! :0)

    • secularist10 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New York City

      Thanks, Aguasilver.

      Actually, I do consider them to be part of Christianity, but even if they weren't they would still count as significant American-born religious traditions. So you'll have to take their "heresy" up with them! I'm sure they would say the same thing about you, lol.

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 

      7 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Reading avidly!

      First I would state that mainstream Churchianity deny either of these branches as being anything but heretics!

      The Adventists are also vegetarian (frowned upon by most other 'official' (as in accepted) denominations. Interestingly the Adventists are perhaps the healthiest denomination, and their sticking points (which deem them heretic) are debatable once one steps out from the mainstream viewpoints. Another weird quirk they have is face hair, which they view as required for leadership!

      The Sabbath issue is of course far more contentious, with most of the traditional denominations keeping to the 'orthodox' (Catholic) opinion that Sunday became the 'official' Sabbath.

      Of course Sun Day was a Roman invention, to accommodate some of the 33 pantheistic deities that Constantine made illegal when he declared that Roman Catholicism was THE official religion of the Roman Empire. I have friends who meet on Saturday night, in search of keeping the original Sabbath declared to the Jews.

      The reality is that believers should live in 'the Sabbath Rest' which means that you are always available to worship and commune with God, so the day you elect is arbitrary. Most believer also do NOT maintain a REAL Sabbath, i.e. keeping one day aside for ONLY communing with God.

      In my Messianic period, we kept the Jewish Sabbath religiously (how else) for about a year, before I came to the conclusion that God wanted my attention seven days a week, not one. I was blessed to live about five years keeping most of my time free for God to call on me to do His will. The rest was deemed 'tentmaking' an accepted principal, and has remained a mainstay of my walk. If God calls me to do something for Him, I do it, all other constrains disappear.

      I know some good Adventists, despite their heresy, some will be true believers, maybe trapped in the Adventist denomination, yet still having a true relationship with God, through Christ.

      Mormons are another quirky denomination professing to be Christian, yet actually denying the supremacy of Christ!

      The golden tablets stuff is what sets them apart, and the Michael is Christ aspect, but again I have met and discussed with many of them (it;s hard not to in Europe) and found them charming folk, entrapped within their denomination.

      So a good start to your articles, but however one which has chosen to commence with the two main 'heretic; denominations, according to the majority of 'orthodox' members of Christ and Churchianity.

      To you they may represent aspects of Christianity, to most of those who subscribe to the Apostolic Creed, they do not.


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