Friday, November 25, 2005

The mythology of church attendance rates - people reluctant to say they don't attend services

A recent Harris interactive poll had me looking for other studies.

Harris found in a client poll for Christmas Tree dealers: Among activities traditionally considered Christian from 1996 to 2005:

• attending a religious service during the Christmas holidays declined 20 percentage points from 63 percent to 43 percent

• taking time for religious reflection declined 22 percentage points from 57 percent to 35 percent

• giving food, money or clothing to those less fortunate declined 15 percentage points from 68 percent to 53 percent (THIS IS NOT GOOD)

• reading the Bible or other religious books declined 27 percentage points from 51 percent to 24 percent

• volunteering for charitable activities declined 23 percentage points from 36 percent to 13 percent (THIS IS NOT GOOD EITHER)

Meanwhile, among activities often considered more commercial:

• exchanging gifts increased eight percentage points from 77 percent to 85 percent

• decorating a Christmas tree was about the same at 74 percent

Meanwhile American Atheists noted back a couple years ago that polls consistently overstate religious activities.

Harris found that only 55% of Americans attend a religious service "a few times a year," with only 36% attending once a month or more often. Twenty-six percent claimed to attend a house of worship every week.

They also cite other studies - "American Sociological Review" : The results indicated that 20% of Protestants attended services regularly rather than the claimed 40%, and 28% rather than 50% for Roman Catholics. A followup study bolstered their findings: They counted heads at church services, and found an average weekly attendance of 24% by the local Catholic population. They then conducted a phone poll that permitted the "socially desirable" bias to assert itself. Indeed, fifty-one percent of Roman Catholics questioned by telephone claimed to have been in church during the past week.

Meanwhile our Texas State Board of Education has withdrawn from the National Association of State Boards as they are too liberal - supporting items like the "'Separation of Church and State".

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