Of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States, African Americans are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, according to The Pew Center for Religious and Public Studies.

They pray more frequently and attend church services more often than the general population. Even among those who do not claim affiliation with a particular church, three out of  four say religion is important in their lives. Close to 60 percent of the nation's African American population chooses to worship in predominately black churches. And yet, the black church is facing turbulent times.  Like many of their peers, the rising generation of African Americans is less interested in religion and find the idea of a predominately black congregation less appealing than their parents did, studies say.  The recession has also hit the black community disproportionately hard, shuttering hundreds of churches across the country due to foreclosure. But the greatest challenge may come from a shift in emphasis. As preaching focuses more on individual prosperity than community uplift, some scholars speculate the decades-old power the black church has exercised as the "soul" of the African American community is "dead" -- or on it's way there.

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