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Insights on church attendance: maybe not so grim after all

Insights on church attendance: maybe not so grim after all

The Atlantic explores the recent Pew Survey on church attendance. It seems that while some have dropped out, 51% of people are attending between once a month to often multiple times per week. Those who stay home report that is not a change for them. Perhaps those who believe and attend now make up a larger percentage of church members now that church is not a place to make business connections or to be seen. Those who do attend and participate are more interested in nurturing and deepening their faith.

There were at least three fascinating tidbits tucked into the results of the survey. First, people who report going to worship services less frequently now than they used to overwhelmingly say the logistics of getting there are the biggest obstacle. Second, a significant number of people who said they’re not part of any particular religion expressed mistrust of religious institutions, suggesting these organizations’ reputations have something to do with why people are dropping out of public religious participation.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, the country seems to be split in half in terms of how often people get to services. Roughly 51 percent of Americans say they go to church or another worship service somewhere between once a month and multiple times per week, while 49 percent said they go rarely or never. But within that 51 percent, more than half of people said they go more often than they used to—in other words, about quarter of Americans  have gotten more active in their religious communities in recent years, not less.

On the other hand, fewer than half of the people who rarely or never go to church said this has been a new decline in the last few years; a greater portion of that group said they’ve always stayed home on Sundays. All of this is a way of saying that, comparatively speaking, there’s more activity happening on the devout side of the spectrum than the drop-out side; this study suggests that even in a time of religion’s public decline, some people are experiencing religious revival.

Read more here.




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Anand Gnanadesikan

One has to take this “good news” with a bit of salt. First, self-reporting of religious attendance is known to be higher than actual attendance. Second, it is likely that it has always been the case that the church contains folks who have been returning to the church (it is the change of the change that is relevant). Finally, if nominal attenders fall away faster than committed attenders the church will have a greater fraction of committed attenders… even if their number is dropping.

That said, I think it probably is good news that church is becoming an institution to those who are actually interested in pursuing virtue, rather than for those interested in virtue signaling.

Evan Anderson

One word: Good!

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