Americans say they go to church about 25% more often than they really do

The United States has long been unusually religious for an affluent, industrialized Western nation — in survey after survey, Americans report relatively high levels of belief in God, affiliation with religious institutions and participation in worship services.

But counting churchgoers has always been a bit tricky. Some congregations tend to over-report attendance, seeking to demonstrate vitality. Others are more scrupulous, especially in denominations where churches pay assessments based on size. And it’s been evident for years that Americans tend to overstate their own religiosity: There is a persistent gap between the number of people who claim to go to worship services and the number who can actually be counted in pews.

The gap grows more striking as America becomes more secular. In recent years, poll after poll has found more Americans who do not identify with a religious tradition, and many denominations show evidence of decline. And yet, Americans continue to report high levels of belief and participation — more than 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God or a universal spirit, and nearly 40 percent report weekly attendance at a worship service, numbers that have remained relatively unchanged for decades.

What’s going on? A new study, released Saturday, suggests that the gradual secularization of the nation has not eliminated the perceived social desirability of going to church, and the result is that Americans exaggerate their religious behavior. That exaggeration is more pronounced among some groups — Catholics, mainline Protestants and, strikingly, the unaffiliated, meaning that even people willing to say they don’t belong to a religious tradition still feel compelled to exaggerate their attendance at worship services…

People appear especially unwilling to say that they “seldom or never” go to worship services. In the phone interviews, only 30 percent described themselves that way, whereas in the online survey 43 percent acknowledged rare attendance. The effect continues even with the unaffiliated: In interviews, 73 percent say they seldom or never attend religious services, but online that number is 91 percent.

Yup. Take me back to the 1950’s. The important description of the corruption of conformity – is what people feel required to be the standard of conformity. The consistent best example in American history alongside going to war.

Consider not only the advertising job inflicted on the populace in general by virtually all politicians and pundits. As far as they’re concerned you’re not capable of providing leadership unless you say “God bless the United States of America” at the end of every speech. Look around at every institution and which are tax-free? Even if they offer no special impetus to the progress of the whole nation?

Little wonder that folks generally are embarrassed to tell the truth about their own conclusions on science, reality and some invisible white guy in the clouds.

2 comments

  1. faycrisanto

    There’s another reason people say they are religious even when they are not: my reason. I just KNOW that if I admit to being a realist, they will start preaching to me. It happens to me 100% of the time. So I claim a specific religion to shut them up. And they do.

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