Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Relationships in America - 1

A new study by the Austin institute for the Study of Family and Culture, entitled Relationships in America, surveys more than 15,000 respondents between the ages of 18 and 60, "To provide a broad overview  of the social forces that shape American society, as well as to document trends that affect individual and familial well-being." It studies American adults' attitudes about religion, sex, marriage, divorce, and related lifestyle subjects. Today I confine myself mainly to reporting what the survey says about religion, leaving further comments for another occasion. (To read the actual report, go to

The survey reports that nearly 3/4 of Americans report a religious affiliation. Some 65.9% self-identify as Christian - 34% Protestant and 22.2% Catholic. Among Protestants, Evangelicals are the largest group at 8.7% of Americans. The survey subdivides Catholics as "traditional" (5.7%), "moderate" (7.5%), and "liberal" (5.8%). On the other hand, 13.2% identify as "nothing, atheist, agnostic," and 7.6% label themselves "spiritual but not religious." by age, however, 17% of those 18-24 claim to be"nothing, atheist, agnostic,"  as opposed to only 9% of those 55-60, which certainly suggests a generational trend of some significance.

As for actual attendance at church, the study concludes that about 35% of Americans attend church in any given week. (27% report actually attending weekly.) Not surprisingly,Evangelicals and Pentecostals lead Protestants in church attendance. Likewise, "traditional" Catholics at 58% beat "liberal" Catholics at 21% in church attendance. Regionally, church attendance is highest in the South and the "Mountain West," while lowest in New England.

Doctrinally, 37% of those surveyed believe in a bodily resurrection of the dead - 61% of weekly attendees, but only 22% of those who rarely or never attend.

The survey also considered the much debated linkage between religion and happiness and confirmed a correlation between greater levels of church attendance "higher life satisfaction," which offers "tentative evidence that actual integration into a religious support network through attendance at religious services may in part be responsible for the increased happiness observed among religious people."

A few other observations that really stand out include reports that twice as many Catholics may think that cohabitation before marriage is a good idea (including apparently almost half of "traditional" Catholics) and that more Catholics seem supportive of same-sex marriage (or at least "neutral") that not.

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