• A sizeable segment of Americans are attending worship services at congregations that do not match the religious affiliations they report, a new study finds. In an article published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (online in August), Paul Djupe, Christopher R. H. Garneau, and Ryan Burge report on their analysis of data from two surveys they conducted in 2022 and 2023 (with 6,350 respondents acquired through Qualtric panels). They found that about a fifth of respondents were mismatched between their congregations and their stated religious affiliations. Many of the mismatched were found to occupy a “liminal state,” attending worship less often than other worshippers and expressing less satisfaction with their congregations as a whole. This suggested to the researchers that the mismatched may be migrating and not yet have found a religious home, or may belong to more unique congregations than those who are “identity-consistent.” The study questions the conventional method and categories for capturing religious affiliation, noting that there is a complex interplay between affiliation and identity and that “identity does not conclusively govern affiliation decisions and may simply exist downstream of affiliation decisions.”(Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion,

    Source: Religion in Public.


  • A nationwide survey of 19,000 Sunday church attendees finds that family structure may be related to religious involvement. The survey, conducted by the Catholic group Communio, was carried out during worship services in 112 evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic congregations in 13 different states. Eighty percent of all Sunday church attendees in the United States were found to have grown up in a continuously married home with both biological parents at a time when this family formation was becoming less prevalent. This trend held across age groups, including churchgoing young adults under the age of 30. For instance, 80 percent of all never-married Sunday churchgoers between the ages of 25 and 29 grew up in a continuously married home at a time when less than half of this age group in the U.S. population did so. The survey found that 87 percent of all never-married men in church on Sunday grew up in a continuously married home. Boys who were raised in homes with married parents were considerably more likely to attend church regularly as adults. The researchers argue that family decline appears to fuel faith decline. In this perspective, the overall population of the religious nones is unlikely to stabilize until 25 to 30 years after family structure has stabilized. The growing tide of loneliness in and out of churches was also looked at in the study. The survey found that just 22 percent of churchgoers considered themselves lonely. But single churchgoers were over three times more likely to feel this way than their married counterparts.

          Source: Communio.

    Just 15 percent of married people in church considered themselves lonely while more than 50 percent of all singles did so, with the higher loneliness reported not among widows, but among never-married men and women between the ages of 30 and 39. The survey also found that about one in five married churchgoers struggled in their marriage. “The gap in relationship satisfaction between married men and women is substantial as women are 62 percent more likely to report struggling than married men,” according to the study’s report. When compared to those who were married, “cohabiting church goers were substantially more likely to report struggling in their relationship. Cohabiting women were 76 percent more likely to struggle than married women and 85 percent more likely to struggle than a cohabiting man. Both cohabiting men and women were far more likely to report being lonely than married men and women.” In sum, a respondent’s family of origin remains an exogenous factor in faith that is not affected by the control variables of changing attitudes or opinions. In other words, the structure of a person’s childhood home is shown to precede in time and place any adult decision to attend church. The researchers conclude that “Causation is notoriously difficult to prove. However, the overall homogeneity in the families of origin from church goers in various generations (Gen Z all the way through the youngest Baby Boomers) is striking. The absence of a proportionate number of church attendees who grew up in homes without married parents across all recent generations suggests movement in family structure is at the heart of the decline in church participation.”

    (The study can be downloaded at:


  •       Source: United Methodist Insight.

    A study on clergy leaving their pulpits finds that they are low in number and that those who do leave do so less out of a loss of faith in God and more due to emotional problems and doubts. The study, presented at the late-August meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion in Philadelphia, which RW attended, was conducted by Landon Schnabel of Cornell University.Using data from the National Study of Religious Leadership (2018–2020), Schnabel found that 77 percent of the 1,600 respondents were “very satisfied” with their ministries. Very few (2 percent) often consider leaving the ministry, with 60 percent saying they never consider that option and 30 percent having only thought of leaving once. Although it has been claimed that rising atheism is a factor in clergy dissatisfaction and departures, very few such clergy were found in the survey. But it was found that many clergy (54 percent) have considered other religious-related work outside of the pastorate. Congregational pay and even politics were not significant factors in clergy leaving their churches, but women and younger clergy were more likely to leave. Overall, mental health problems from stress and doubt were the two largest factors in church departures.


  • There are mixed signals regarding congregational recovery from the Covid pandemic, with signs of a rebound from early to mid-2023, along with challenges, such as ongoing attendance decline, according to a study by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research As other studies have found, the study, which is the fourth wave of surveys that started in 2020, shows church attendance, income, and volunteering on the uptick while congregational conflicts are down. The new report, focusing only on Christian churches, found that while 50 percent of churches (both online and in-person) are down from their pre-pandemic attendance rates, 33 percent are now above where they were in attendance before Covid. Sixteen percent of attendees are new to church life since 2020. There has also been a “remarkable” increase in income in these churches since 2020, according to lead researcher Scott Thumma. The finding of a lower number of church conflicts might mean that those who were in conflict with their churches during church lockdowns and other controversies have left their congregations since then. But the survey finds that the pandemic did little to reverse the long-term decline and greying of many congregations, though the technology adopted during the pandemic is likely to remain a permanent part of congregational life.

    (The Hartford study can be downloaded from:


  • Although Christian nationalism has become a broad-brush term for conservative Christians seeking to shape the government according to their faith, a new study argues that the movement is more divided than the media and even scholars have portrayed it to be. In an article appearing in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (online in August), Ruiqian Li and Paul Froese analyze two recent surveys, four waves of the Baylor Religion Survey and the 2021 Pew American Trends Panel (ATP), and identify two strands of Christian nationalism: “religious traditionalism” and “Christian statism.” While both camps seek the Christianization of America, the religious traditionalists (RT) tend to reject the nativism, racial antipathy, and religious intolerance of the Christian statists (CS). The researchers argue that the white evangelicals who are strong supporters of Donald Trump more strongly intertwine ethnic and national identity with Christian identity, whereas religious traditionalists have “more inclusive, sympathetic, and positive sentiments toward a variety of national, ethnic, and religious groups.” RTs tend to be more patriotic, espousing a “color-blind” attitude toward different ethnic and racial groups, while CSs are low in national pride and exhibit exclusionary tendencies that tend to restrict the boundaries of American membership. While the researchers do not assign any number to these two strands, they conclude that Christian statism seems to be the emerging position; as white Christians lose their status and demographic strength, the goal of a color-blind Judeo-Christian and democratic nation where religions freely compete against each other is giving way to feeling embattled and seeking special protections and favoritism from the state.

    Source: World Religion News.


  • While especially in recent years it has been assumed that evangelical clergy are more politically liberal than their congregants, a new analysis finds that the vast majority are either politically aligned or more conservative than the latter. In the journal Politics and Religion (16), sociologists Joseph Roso and Mark Chaves analyze the National Survey of Religious Leaders, supplemented with the 2018 General Social Survey, and find that while the contrast between a more liberal clergy and conservative membership still holds true overall, no such political gap exists between evangelical clergy and their members, even though many thought that was the case during the 2016 election. Roso and Chaves found that only small minorities of white clergy said they were more liberal than their members (12 percent) or reported voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016 (29 percent). As for black clergy, they were about as likely to be more conservative than their congregants as they were to be more liberal. Despite research showing a more conservative Catholic priesthood, Roso and Chaves found that the majority of Catholic clergy reported themselves to be more liberal than their parishioners.

    (Politics and Religion,

    Source: T4G.


  • Latin America is following other regions in witnessing the gradual rise of the non-affiliated (or “nones”), and the trend is closely related to people’s weaker ties to all social institutions, according to demographer Matt Blanton of the University of Texas. Blanton, who presented a paper at the late-August meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion in Philadelphia, which RW attended, based his analysis on the LAPOP survey (2016–2017 and 2018–2019), also known as the Americas Barometer. He found that the nones in Latin America have grown from 8 percent in 2014 to 14 percent in 2018–2019. The nones were found to be more connected to social media and global groups but showed less overall trust in and more alienation from institutions. The nones who were involved were part of social groups that were more leftist in makeup, although at the same time these individuals were less politically attached. Blanton said that it is difficult to know whether social distrust and weak ties have led to the religious disaffiliation or whether it is the other way around.

    Atheist protestors (source: Chilean Atheist Society).


  • Bucking the trend among Jews worldwide, South African Jews are moving toward stricter forms of Judaism rather than more secular expressions, a new study finds. While Jews in South Africa are polarized between secular and religious ends of the spectrum as they are in Israel, the U.S., and the UK, these other communities have seen switching in secular directions. Analyzing the 2019 Jewish Community Survey, Nadia Beider and David Fachler find that only a slight majority of South African Jews have remained in the subgroup in which they were raised, with a quarter switching towards religion and just over a fifth away from it. “Patterns of switching within the South African Jewish community are all the more remarkable given that the community was already centered around the Traditional subgroup,” they write in the journal Contemporary Jewry (online in August). As to the reasons for this South African exception, the researchers note that such religious switching is much more common among the cohorts born in the 1960s and 1970s, who came of age when South Africa was undergoing marked turmoil leading up to the dismantling of apartheid in 1994. Religious switching among non-Jewish groups in South Africa has also been more prevalent than in other parts of Africa, although the shift among Jews is much more marked. There is also a more homogenous Jewish community in South Africa (with mainly Lithuanian origins), with dense social networks (due to the insularity of Apartheid South Africa) that allow for the spread of new ideas. Within this mix, a number of charismatic rabbis capitalized on the situation and made “great headway in inducing more secular Jews to embrace a strict form of Orthodoxy.”

    (Contemporary Jewry,

    Synagogue in Capetown (source: University of Cape Town).


  • An online survey of Iranians found an unusually large number of respondents claiming Zoroastrian identity, leading researchers to believe that such identification was more of a “performative act” and protest against the influence of political Islam in Iran than a genuine profession of faith. Writing in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (online in August), Michael Stausberg, Ammar Maleki, and Pooyan Tamimi Arab report on the GAMAAN (Group for Measuring and Analyzing Attitudes in Iran) survey, which surveyed 50,000 respondents, 90 percent of whom lived in Iran. Eight percent claimed to be Zoroastrian—“many times the number of Zoroastrians” ever recorded in the country. Zoroastrianism is an ancient mystical religion that was once based in Iran but since the 18th century largely migrated to India, leaving only about 25,000 adherents in Iran. But Zoroastrianism has been hailed by Iranians as elevating individualism, rationality, and freedom over the strict communal demands of Shia Islam, even becoming a tourist attraction of national renown. Stausberg, Maleki and Arab argue that in 2020 and 2022 what they call “survey Zoroastrians” were actually disaffected Shia Muslims who were stating their aspiration that Iran return to Zoroastrianism and reject Islam.

    Zoroastrian temple in Iran (source: Wikimedia Commons).