At the end of the 20th century, the United States was a nation of
270,311,758 people (1998 estimate) living and working within an
area of 9.6 million sq km (3.7 million sq mi). This population count
makes the United States the third most populous country in the world,
after China and India. Nearly 5 percent of the earth's inhabitants
live in the United States. Historically, this nation has attracted
vast numbers of immigrants from around the globe.
Yet the United States remains less densely populated than other
large countries or other industrialized nations-in 1998 there were
28 persons per sq km (73 per sq mi).
The language spoken is English, with significant Spanish-speaking
The variety of religious beliefs in the United States surpasses
the nation's multitude of ethnicities, nationalities, and races,
making religion another source of diversity rather than a unifying
force. This is true even though the vast majority of Americans 84
percent identify themselves as Christian. One-third of these self-identified
Christians are unaffiliated with any church. Moreover, practicing
Christians belong to a wide variety of churches that differ on theology,
organization, programs, and policies. The largest number of Christians
in the United States belong to one of the many Protestant denominations
groups that vary widely in their beliefs and practices. Roman Catholics
constitute the next largest group of American Christians, followed
by the Eastern Orthodox.
Most Christians in America are Protestant, but hundreds of Protestant
denominations and independent congregations exist. Many of the major
denominations, such as Baptists, Lutherans, and Methodists, are
splintered into separate groups that have different ideas about
theology or church organization. Some Protestant religious movements,
including Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, cut across many different
Protestant organizations. Roman Catholics, the next largest religious
group in the United States.