Friday, July 29, 2022

Religion in America

From the Wall Street Journal yesterday, "Religion Is Dying? Don’t Believe It":
Reports of religion’s decline in America have been exaggerated. You’ve heard the story: Churchgoers are dwindling in number while “Nones”—those who tell pollsters they have no religious affiliation—are multiplying as people abandon their faith and join the ranks of atheists and agnostics. ....

These conclusions are based on analyses that are so flawed as to be close to worthless. ....

Data from five recent U.S. population surveys point to the vibrancy, ubiquity and growth of religion in the U.S. Americans are becoming more religious, and religious institutions are thriving. ....

...[L]arge databases on American religion often lump Others in with the Nones. Respondents who don’t see their faith or denomination listed check off the only remaining option, “none of the above.” ....

All of this helps explain why the proportion of Nones has increased sharply—from 15% in 2007 to 30% in 2021—even though the proportion of atheists in the U.S. has held steady at 3% to 4% for more than 80 years. And there are reasons to question the assumption that even truly unaffiliated Nones aren’t religious. Our study looked closely at their actual practices and beliefs.

According to the 2018 General Social Survey, 6.4% of self-described atheists and 27.2% of agnostics attended religious services monthly or more; 12.8% and 58.1%, respectively, prayed at least weekly; 19.2% and 75% believed in life after death; and 7.3% and 23.3% reported having had a religious experience.

Religion is constantly evolving, but it isn’t in decline in the U.S. More Americans attend and support more religious congregations than ever before. Social scientists can’t count them unless they know where to look.
Byron R. Johnson and Jeff Levin, "Religion Is Dying? Don’t Believe It," Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2022.

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