Thursday, December 23, 2010

Americans and Canadians: Not as religious as we claim?

Shankar Vedantam writing for looks at some interesting research that suggests that Americans may not be any more actively religious than other industrialized nations; they just claim to be.

The surveys have been remarkably consistent over the years.  Forty percent of Americans tell pollsters they regularly attend religious services.  Nearly 90 percent say they believe in God.  Yet perhaps half of those believers who claim to attend church actually don't.

The twist lies in how the questions are asked in polls, which I would think be obvious to those who conduct these things.  For example, when asked, "Do you attend church?" Americans will say Yes.  But when asked "Where were you on Sunday morning last week," many of them will say they were somewhere else besides church. 

So the question is, if certain people don't practice religion, why do they think of themselves as religious?  Why is their identity wrapped up in portraying themselves as faithful?  Are they worried that others will think less of them if they aren't appropriately pious?  Vendatam makes no conclusion, but does offer some valid advice:
For many Americans, church attendance is a central part of their lives. For others, it's a waste of time. If you're in either of these groups, more power to you. But in the spirit of Christmas and the truthteller whose message we celebrate, surely believers and atheists can agree on what to tell folks who talk Jesus but walk Santa: Enough with the two-faced posturing.

1 comment:

Gunny Geek said...

We will never know. People are prone to pressure, to lying and cheating, to living according to how the believe they are perceived rather than how they actually feel. So, even people's actions can be deceiving.