Religion has always played an important role in Georgia history, and continues to be a significant aspect of many Georgians’ lives. Two religious leaders who spent time in early colonial Georgia shaped religious history, including John Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement after serving in Georgia, and George Whitefield, the Anglican preacher who was one of the leaders of the First Great Awakening.
Not all of Georgia’s religious settlers were Christian or English-speaking. Jewish settlers first arrived in Georgia in 1733. Despite some question on whether they should be allowed (only Catholics were legally banned), James Oglethorpe allowed the Jewish immigrants to land and eventually settle in Georgia, where they established the oldest Jewish congregation in the South. A group of German-speaking Salzburgers, fleeing persecution in Europe, settled the town of Ebenezer the year after the founding of Savannah.
Georgia’s modern religious leaders include pacifists and humanitarians Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who led the Civil Rights Movement from his pastorate at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and Clarence Jordan, who established Koinonia Farm in the mid-twentieth century based on pacifism, simple living, and racial integration. From Koinonia grew the contemporary Christian organization Habitat for Humanity, founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in 1976.
Today, over 85% of Georgians claim to be a follower of a religious tradition. Research done by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project indicate that Georgians practice diverse religions (see the following table):
- Evangelical Protestant Tradition: 38%
- Mainline Protestant Tradition: 16%
- Historically Black Protestant Tradition: 16%
- Catholic Tradition: 12%
- Mormon Tradition: 1%
- Jehovah’s Witness Tradition: 1%
- Jewish Tradition: 1%
- Orthodox Tradition: less than 0.5%
- Muslim Tradition: less than 0.5%
- Buddhist Tradition: less than 0.5%
- Hindu Tradition: less than 0.5%
- Other Christian Traditions: less than 0.5%
- Other World Religions: less than 0.5%
- Other Faiths: less than 0.5%
- Didn’t Know or Refused to Answer: less than 0.5%
- Unaffiliated with any Religious Tradition: 13%
GeorgiaInfo has collected links to websites with much more detailed information on religion in Georgia (see links under External Resources below). For more on religion in Georgia, see the many articles in the Religion section of the New Georgia Encyclopedia.