Aug

06

2013

Justin Taylor|4:08 pm CT

Rodney Stark: Membership in Local Churches Is Now at an All-Time High in America

From an interview with Baylor University sociologist Rodney Stark:

We’ve heard a great deal in the past year about the rise of the “Nones.” According to reports, about 20% of Americans, the highest percentage ever, tell surveyors that they have no religious affiliation. Yet in America’s Blessings you note that 70% of Americans, also the highest percentage in our history, belong to religious congregations. What explains these two, apparently contradictory, developments?

First of all, few of the “Nones” aren’t religious.  Most of them even pray. What they mean when they say “None” is that they do not belong to a specific church.

As for the increase in their numbers over the past 20 years, that probably is mostly caused by the decline in the percentage of Americans willing to take part in a survey. Those who do are very disproportionately the less affluent and less educated. Believe it or not, repeated studies going back to the 1940s always show that this is the group least likely to belong to a local church—the more educated Americans are the more religious segment (excluding PhDs).

Meanwhile, partly because Americans move less often than they used to, and many more remain in their home towns as adults, membership in local churches has been rising—now estimated at 70 percent, the all-time high.

You can read the whole thing here.

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