Are the religiously unaffiliated rising in proportion to the rest of the population?
Put another way, we could ask, "Are the number of Americans who do not attend church declining?"
This interview with sociologist Rodney Stark about his recent book America's Blessings has prompted me to add it to my "to-read" list on BookLikes and GoodReads. One of the primary myths he seeks to erase is that which claims religion has an antisocial impact on cultures and communities.
Stark is a respected and often quoted sociologist who is willing to go toe-to-toe with the status quo with the media and educational elite to proffer interpretations of critical studies that paint a very different picture than one hears from mainstream sources.
When asked about the supposed rise of the "Nones," or those who say in response to surveys that they do not attend or belong to a local church, Stark says:
[The "Nones"] 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%, the all-time high.
In a contradiction to the above claim that religion does not benefit society, studies consistently show that crime rates are substantially lower in communities where religion and church attendance are more prevalent.
To the extent that communities are made up of religious people, crime rates will be lower both because the religious folks are far less likely to commit crimes and because religious values and references will be more openly and commonly expressed, setting a moral tone for everyone. For example, it will be harder for kids to think that they are to be admired for stealing.
In another article about the book, the writer observes that America's Blessings points out that "reliable statistical studies show that religious people are much less likely to commit crimes, much more likely to contribute to charities, including secular charities, and more likely to say they have satisfying marriages."
Due to the disproportionate number of liberals in education, entertainment and media, one would be tempted to conclude that church attendance is on the decline in America. It's not. It's at an all-time high. On the other hand, one number us holding steady, according to Stark's analysis:
Only a small group of Americans, around four percent, say they are atheists—a percentage that hasn’t changed in several decades.
I'm eager to read this book. How about you?