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Illinois Religious Diversity: State Among Nation's Most Diverse, Muslim Faith State's Fastest Growing

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ILLINOIS RELIGION DIVERSITY
Worshippers pray during Eid al-Fitr morning services marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at Toyota Park, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, in Bridgeview, Ill. They were joined by Christian and Jewish religious leaders from around the Chicago area in a show of support for the Muslim community. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green) | AP

According to data released this week, while no longer the nation's most religiously diverse state, Illinois is now home to the second-highest number of different religious faiths.

And one faith, in particular, is experiencing rapid growth in the Prairie State: While Roman Catholics continue to rank as both the nation's and state's largest religious group, their memberships ranks are in decline. Meanwhile, Muslims have now become the state's fastest growing and third-largest group among 176 religious traditions, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The findings were outlined in the decennial 2012 Religious Congregations and Membership Study, released Tuesday during a Chicago conference. Pennsylvania, home to 184 different religious traditions, outpaced Illinois as the nation's most religiously diverse.

Ahlam Jbara, interim executive director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, told the Tribune that the findings provide "real data in our community which we really haven't been able to show" when it comes to how Muslims contribute to the state.

Nationwide, the honor of the nation's fastest-growing religion, when compared to 2000 data, belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Both mainline Protestants and Catholics are increasingly losing ground to the increasing numbers of Mormons and Muslims.

According to the report, Mormons are the fastest-growing religious group in 26 states and have reported 2 million new adherents in 295 counties over the past decade. Muslims have gained 1 million new adherents in 197 counties -- up from 1 million in 2000 to 2.6 million in 2010.

Growth in the American Muslim population is due to a number of factors, according to researchers, including growth in suburban areas, an increased willingness by Muslims in the States to stand and be counted, and more mosques being built to serve more worshippers.

According to Reuters, Muslims now outnumber American Jews for the first time in most of the Midwest and some of the South.

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