Posts Tagged ‘Church Attendance’
The less educated are disappearing from the American religious sector, as well as disappearing from the American labor market.
Over the past 40 years, wages have fallen and rates of unemployment have risen markedly for moderately educated men, while wages have remained stagnant for moderately educated women. During the same period, the moderately educated have become less likely to hold family centered beliefs and less likely to get and stay married, compared to college educated adults. For the least educated, those without high school degrees, the economic situation has been worse, and they have also become less likely to hold family centered beliefs, and less likely to get and stay married, compared to college educated adults.
Simultaneously, religious service attendance has decreased for all white Americans since the early 1970s, but the decline has been more than twice that of those without college degrees compared with those who graduated from college, according to new research by W Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia based on data from the General Social Survey and the National Survey of Family Growth. Americans with higher incomes attend religious services more often, and those who have experienced unemployment at some point over the past 10 years attend less often. Wilcox said:
Today, the market and the state provide less financial security to the less educated than they once did, and this is particularly true for the moderately educated—those who have high school degrees, but didn’t graduate from a 4-year college. Religious congregations may be one of the few institutional sectors less educated Americans can turn to for social, economic, and emotional support in the face of today’s tough times, yet it appears that increasingly few of them are choosing to do so.
Modern religious institutions promote a family centered morality that values marriage and parenthood, and they embrace traditional middle class virtues such as self control, delayed gratification, and a focus on education. But the study finds that those who are married, especially if they have children, those who hold more conservative views toward premarital sex, and those who lost their virginity later than their peers, attend religious services more frequently. It makes sense that less educated whites, who are now less likely to be stably employed, to earn a decent income, to be married with children, and to hold family centered views, also do not attend as often services at religious institutions that continue to uphold conventional norms.
At PhysOrg.com, a commentator had a blunter explanation. People don’t go to church because they realize the organizations are corrupt, and in no way reflect the teachings or practices of Jesus or the early church. Churches in America have become nothing more than a Ponzi scheme to make pastors wealthy at everyone else’s expense. It isn’t about doing good for other people either, for many of them. The poor are writing off the churches because they support the system that oppresses them despite the plain contradiction of economic exploitation by Jesus.
We are always reading that Americans are religious—more religious than the people of other industrialized countries. Two in five Americans say they regularly attend church services. 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God, and over 70 percent know that God exists. The simple story obtained by believing self reported religosity was rather obviously contrasted by the empty churches in parts of many cities. Then C Kirk Hadaway, director of research at the Episcopal Church, estimated that actual church attendances for Protestants and Catholics are approximately half of those reported.
Shankar Vedantam has pointed out that asking people whether they attend church is an unreliable way of getting religious answers. Instead of asking about church attendance, it is better to ask people to describe exactly how they spent their time on a typical sunday. This way, Philip Brenner, of the University of Michigan, found that the US and Canada both over reported religious attendance. It turns out that Americans are no more religious than people in other developed countries. The tendency to exaggerate church attendance made the US and Canada seem different. Actually, Americans attended church about as often as Italians and Slovenians, and a little more than the British and Germans.
So what is different about them is that they want others to think they are more religious than they are. They are much more stereotyped, because religion in the USA is still falsely considered a measure of people’s worth. Young people today might think it more important to know how many Facebook “friends” you have—you must be a good person to have a thousand Facebook “friends”. Equally, for many Americans, you must be a good person to attend church so regularly.
In other industrialized nations in the twentieth century this notion eroded because the majority realized church attendance was too often hypocritical, not sincere, the very thing that most Americans failed to notice. Americans continued to feel obliged to show they were religious. They still fear that unless they affirm their religiosity—such as by regular church attendance—they will be seen as less of a person than otherwise. Moreover, when you are in reality a villain, you have even more incentive to beef up your church attendance record! Therein lies the hypocrisy.