The death of superstar musician Prince has prompted many reflections on his life – including his religious faith. Prince, who was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, became a Jehovah’s Witness as an adult and attended services in his home state of Minnesota.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, who make up just less than 1% of U.S. adults, are known for their door-to-door proselytism. But members of this denomination, which has its origins in 19th-century America, are also unique in many other ways. Here are a few facts about Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States today, based on Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study:
Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the most racially and ethnically diverse religious groups in America. No more than four-in-ten members of the group belong to any one racial and ethnic background: 36% are white, 32% are Hispanic, 27% are black and 6% are another race or mixed race.
Most Jehovah’s Witnesses – roughly two-thirds (65%) – are women, while only 35% are men. Christians worldwide are more likely to be women than men, but this gender gap is particularly large in the context of U.S. Christian groups. For instance, 54% of U.S. Catholics are women.
Compared with other U.S. religious groups, Jehovah’s Witnesses tend to be less educated. A solid majority of adult Jehovah’s Witnesses (63%) have no more than a high school diploma, compared with, for example, 43% of evangelical Protestants and 37% of mainline Protestants.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have a low retention rate relative to other U.S. religious groups. Among all U.S. adults who were raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses, two-thirds (66%) no longer identify with the group. By contrast, about two-thirds of those who were raised as evangelical Protestants (65%) and Mormons (64%) still say they are members of those respective groups.
On the flip side, about two-thirds (65%) of current adult Jehovah’s Witnesses are converts – like Prince, they were raised in another faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses identify as Christians, but their beliefs are different from other Christians in some ways. For instance, they teach that Jesus is the son of God but is not part of a Trinity.
By traditional measures of religious commitment, Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the most highly religious major U.S. religious groups. Nine-in-ten Jehovah’s Witnesses (90%) say religion is very important in their lives, while similar shares say they believe in God with absolute certainty (90%) and that the Bible is the word of God (94%).