Sunday, February 04, 2007

The secular creep: Using the General Social Survey, I averaged the percent of Americans who never attend church:

Percent never going to church

70s: 14.0
80s: 14.8
90s: 17.3
00s: 20.4

70s: 6.8
80s: 8.3
90s: 8.9
00s: 10.7

So the increase in church avoidance is up 46% for whites and 57% for blacks over (roughly) 3 decades. One in five whites never attends religious services. America is still one of the most religious countries in the world (with indicators similar to Ireland, Poland, and India) but the drift is in a European direction. I suspect that the trend has less to do with growing disbelief than with diminishing appeal and sense of obligation, and later I'll see what the data say.


  1. Well, in my case it has to do with not wanting a dose of politics mixed with my religion, and an increasing sense of overt hypocrisy found within mainline Protestant religion (my faith) and Roman Catholicism (my wife's). Thanks, but I don't need to hear about my moral failings from a guy who's working for an organization that protects pedophiles and enables illegal aliens to break the law.

  2. Yes, hypocrisy really turns people off. I don't know if it is more infuriating now than in the past, but the problem is that hypocrisy is an avoidable companion of preaching. As long as people are not saints (and nobody is) you will be a hypocrite the moment you open your mouth about another person's failings.

    One partial solution to this is what priests often do in the Orthodox Church: they preach and in the same breath frankly confess that they are the first among sinners. So the message is that even though I am bad myself, the message has still got to be put out there to turn to God to raise us all from our misbehaving selves.

    It seems to me that the alternatives are: 1) no one ever tells anybody else improve (a public moral vacuum); 2)people pose as saints and preach (dishonest hypocrisy); and 3)people preach and admit frankly that they are bad (honest hypocrisy). Seeing a vibrant public morality as important, I vote for honest hypocrisy.

  3. Correction: That should be "UNavoidable companion of preaching."

  4. Anonymous9:34 PM

    honest hypocrisy? Lambasting people for being sinners and then lambasting oneself is morally and logically consistent.

    Nothing hypocritical about that. Your Orthodox priest is a logically consistent person. While Jim Haggard is a hypocrite (and a gay meth whore to boot).

    -Dan Doyle

  5. Anon:I can't say I dislike your point, but in my mind hypocrisy is not practicing what you preach, and nobody practices what they preaches. I tell my child to be honest, though I constantly find myself lying. If I tell my child I lie too, but we must try not to, this does not make my word and deed any less inconsistent.

  6. On the wall of every Papist outlet are what is called the Stations of the Cross. They are usually reliefs of the passion. Each are labeled. Three of them are:, Jesus falls the first time, Jesus falls the second time, Jesus falls the third time. The lesson is, you too will fall many times, but you get up. the doctrine is all are sinners, but all try to be better and never stop getting up.

    One saint I know about because of the middle name I was baptized with authored my favorite religious quote, "The walls of hell are lined with birettas." A biretta is a hat priests used to wear. As a weak faithed, anti clerical papist, I never tire of reminding padres of that quip.

  7. tvoh: Yes, one thing I like about both the Catholic and Orthdodox churches is that, while parishioners are instructed to confess often, priests must do the same. My priest admits his weaknesses publicly much more than, say, my fellow professors do, and they preach all the time. So if you want to avoid hypocrsiy, don't attend college classes.

  8. So if you want to avoid hypocrsiy, don't attend college classes.

    Now you tell me:)

  9. How was "never" defined? For example, I essentially never go to church, but I've been in them a couple of times for weddings. So "never" isn't literally true, but it is true for all practical purposes.

  10. cedric: Respondents were given several choices to the question about how often they attend church. One option was "never" and the next choice was "lt once a year." So for someone in your situation, I suppose they might answer either way.


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