Americans inflate their religiosity


There was an interesting report on NPR that adds support to the idea that Americans, while religious, are not as religious as cracked up to be.

Much of the evidence for religiosity comes from surveys about the frequency of church attendance and the like, but the report quotes Philip Brenner, a professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, who says that when people are asked a question about how often they attend church, they actually answer a slightly different question, such as “Are you the sort of person who attends?” If they think they should be that sort of person, then they inflate their attendance. But when they are asked to keep a diary of how they actually spend their time, Sunday church attendance figures drop from the self-reported 45% to about 24%, not that different from godless Europe.

Interestingly, when people in Europe are asked to keep a time diary, their self-reports of frequency of church attendance is similar to that obtained from their time diaries.

So when people say that Americans are more religious than Europe, all that it might mean is that Americans feel a greater pressure to look like they are religious.

Comments

  1. Kevin K says

    Interesting. And pretty consistent with what I see around me.

    My most hyper-religious buddy only makes it to church half the time. (Well, not counting the minister who pretty much has to be there every week, else not get paid.)

    Everyone else…once a month or so. Less during the winter when the weather’s bad. Less during the summer when the weather’s nice. Never on vacation or otherwise on the road.

    But they’ll declare their strong religiosity when pressed in public, especially in front of their god-bot friends.

    I’ve never understood the need for weekly church attendance. I haven’t been in decades and I still remember the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer and all the rest. It’s not like a lot has changed in that time. Same prayers, same sermons, same mindless superstition.

  2. stonyground says

    I am an English person and I can honestly say that, apart from weddings christenings and funerals, I have never attended a Church service since my parents stopped forcing me to. Apart from the aforementioned exceptions, I cannot imagine any circumstances that would lead me to attend a church service, ever. That would basically be my reply if anyone asked me the question.

  3. Psychopomp Gecko says

    Ah yes, the generic Christians who claim to believe but don’t go to church or read the bible or know any of the doctrines. They just believe in Yahweh because they were told to by their parents, who were told to by their parents, who were told to by their parents…

    It’d be nice if eventually they really thought for themselves instead of living with passed down beliefs just because they were passed down.

  4. AsqJames says

    So when people say that Americans are more religious than Europe, all that it might mean is that Americans feel a greater pressure to look like they are religious.

    That’s speculating about motivations. All this really tells us is that (in this one area at least) Americans “bear false witness” more than Europeans. Considering the subject is religion, the majority religion in both areas is Christianity, and one of the cardinal rules of Christianity is not bearing false witness, the only sensible conclusion is that Europeans are better Christians than Americans.

    I’m not saying that’s a good thing.

  5. anne mariehovgaard says

    24 % is still pretty high. If you only go to church once a year here in Norway, you go on Christmas eve, and even then Church attendance barely reaches 10 %.

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