Sunday, April 10, 2011

Percentages of believers who don't attend religious services

Spurred by Sgt Joe Friday, I used the GSS to take a look at what percentage of self-identified firm theists do not attend religious services with any regularity (defined as going less frequently than once a month). He expressed surprise at how many on the right still attend churches that increasingly incorporate leftist causes (ie, environmentalism and open borders) into their services.

To some extent, the political alliance between pious Christians and the GOP is a consequence of the latter welcoming the former while over the last few decades the Democratic party has come to be seen as increasingly inhospitable to many believers, especially white Protestant evangelicals, more than it being a result of these pious Christians sharing Rand Paul's views on taxation and government regulation of private enterprise. As long as SWPL views on deeply held Christian faith (among whites, anyway) remain disdainful, there will be a sizable contingent of white evangelicals who stick with the GOP even though their political beliefs aren't particularly rightist.

Anyhow, considering only responses from this millennium for contemporary relevance, we find that 39.5% of firm believers show up less than once a month, and 17.9% don't even make it on Christmas. Among conservatives, the figures are 28.4% and 11.8%, respectively. For moderates, 44.9% and 21.0%. And for liberals, 50.1% and 24.3%. A quarter of conservative believers and half of liberal believers don't go to church.

GSS variables used: POLVIEWS(1-3)(4)(5-7), GOD(6), ATTEND(0-3)


sykes.1 said...

Charles Murray says that among whites there is a strong class difference regarding church going. Whereas only about 1/3 of working class whites attend church, a small majority of upper middle class whites do.

In general, upper middle class whites uphold traditional values and working class whites have largely abandoned them.

I thought college was supposed to "liberate" us from tradition. Tevye wins.

Olave d'Estienne said...

The Charles Murray lecture was amazingly great (hat tip to Foseti. I was really surprised by the upper middle class religiosity. I would have figured lower class religiosity declined to almost as low - not lower- than the UMC.

So, anyway ... there is the inevitable "bloodlines" question here. I am way out on a limb, but I surmise that the secular, coastal UMC of, say, 1950-1960 really did exist, and they did make the UMC less religious than the proletariat at that time. They just didn't reproduce much. The only rich people who don't view children as an inferior good are largely non-coastal largely religious types.

Meanwhile, the only poor people who cheerfully bring children into squalor are not religious.

That's speculation though.

Jokah Macpherson said...

Whatever the reason is for pious believers not attending church services, I doubt that it is very often disgust at the preaching of liberal orthodoxy as gospel, since that has even worse success at keeping the God-fearing liberals in the pews.

My guess would be that the main reason is just having something better to do on Sunday mornings, although if you think about it, the entire position of unwavering faith in God coupled with not even bothering to go to church is sort of contradictory. Maybe the upper class is more apt to spot this contradiction, but I am guessing at this point.

Also, I hate to be the word police but I think there's a typo in the last paragraph - I wouldn't mention it except it threw me off and I had to reread the paragraph a couple times.

Audacious Epigone said...

Thanks for the Murray link, I had missed it. There is a lot of material here for further GSS-related posts.


Oops, thanks for catching that. I fixed it.

Stopped Clock said...

I suspect most low wage jobs are the type that run 7 days a week, and people who work there are reluctant to ask for Sundays off if it means risking being laid off in favor of someone with an open schedule. (And yes, people have sued and won for being asked to work Sundays, but it's a lot of hassle and just because one person made it doesnt mean everyone will.)

sykes.1 said...

Another interesting datum is the periodic surveys of the members of the National Academy of Sciences. I believe these surveys have been conducted since at least the 50s or 60s.

When asked about religious belief, a consistent 40% or so of these elite scientists state that they have some sort of belief. The great majority are atheists/agnostics.

Biologists are the outlier. If I recall correctly, only 4% of biologists have any sort of religion. Darwin is the true enemy of religion, but very few educated people understand or believe in natural selection.

We also have 6 Roman Catholics on the Supreme Court, although I doubt that more than half are practicing.

All this, of course, further supports Murray's work.

I pointed this out over at Half Sigma and made some people hopping mad.

Audacious Epigone said...


What was it, specifically, that caused HS' commentariat to get angry? That those who claim to understand natural selection are the ones nature is selecting against? Or something else?

Underachiever said...

Sykes is wrong.

The strong majority (72%) of NAS scientists are atheist. The majority of the rest are agnostic. The percentage who believe in a personal God is around 7%.

"Darwin is the true enemy of religion". Yep. The truth does tend to kill religion.

sykes.1 said...

Underachiever--Thanks for the correction. I must have misremembered the NSF survey results.

Anonymous said...

Jesus specifically said not to go to church, and that church-goers were a bunch of hypocrites showing off.

So the sincere believers who don't go to church are in fact behaving consistently.

But one reason would be working class people needing a break on weekends, and not having enough free time.