– The U.S. ranks as one of the most pious and religious of any Western countries (p. 1-2)
– For most of the past 300 years, 35%-40% of the population has participated in church with some degree of regularity (p2)
– Despite what people SAY about weekly attendance, the true weekly rate is closer to 25% (p 45). If we use lesser frequencies, more than 60% of American adults have attended a service at a religious congregation in the last year (p 55).
– While it’s debatable whether the attendance is going down or remaining level, the data is unambiguous that overall church attendance is attendance not increasing (p 47). More specifically, religious service attendance declined in the several decades leading up to 1990 and seems to have been essentially stable thereafter (p 49).
– However, the percent who say they “never” attend church has risen steadily over the last 30 years as people shift from infrequent attendance to nonattendance (pp 46, 48).
– Finally, the Protestant portion of the U.S. population is in decline, due to the rise in “nones” (no religious preference), decline of mainline denominations, and rise in the percent of recent immigrants claiming a religion other than Christian (pp 17-24). The Protestant makeup was 62% in the early 1970s to just over 50% today (p 24). If that trend continues, we will soon be a Protestant-minority country.
A couple of months ago, I put together a graphic showing the political positions of American churches and religions. My analysis was based on Pew’s 2007 Religious Landscape survey, which included more than 35,000 people.
My work received a lot of attention. One of the most fascinating pieces of the graph was the position of people who belonged mainline churches. Despite the liberal positions of clergy and church leaders, mainline Protestants are some of the most conservative on economic issues. Mainline Protestants favored a smaller government that provided fewer services. The mainline churches could be described as “libertarian” because they also favored a government that stayed out of policies protecting morality.
Evangelicals held about the same position on economics, but they were much more conservative on the role of government in protecting traditional morality. Black Protestants, too, were conservative on social issues. They were much more supportive a larger government on economics.
Dan Olson and Ben Pratt of Purdue University crunched a different set of numbers but came up with remarkably similar results. They presented some of their results at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion meetings last week…