• High school students’ religious attendance and the importance they assign to religion in their lives have undergone significant declines over the last 27 years. In his newsletter Graphs about Religion (March 7), Ryan Burge analyzes datasets from the annual survey of high school students, “Monitoring the Future,” from 1995 and 2022, focusing on high school seniors on the two questions the survey asks about religion (attendance and the importance of religion). He finds that in 1995, just 15 percent of high school seniors said that they never attended services, while 32 percent were attending at least once a week. Frequent attenders outnumbered never attenders by a ratio of two to one. By 2022, 29 percent of seniors were never attending religious services while only 22 percent were in the weekly attending category. The percentage of never attenders increased by 14 points, while the percentage attending weekly dropped by 10 points. Burge finds that there was little movement in the middle two categories, with the rare attenders going down by two percentage points (from 36 to 34 percent) and the monthly attenders shifting by just one point (16 to 15 percent). “In essence, all the movement is on the ends—never and weekly. Now, 63 percent of high school seniors attend less than once a month; it was only 51 percent in 1995.”

    On the perceived importance of religion, the results are similar to the responses about religious attendance, with much of the shifting taking place on the ends. Among high school seniors in 1995, 30 percent said that religion was very important to them, a share that dropped to just 20 percent by 2022. At the same time, the share that said that religion was not important at all almost doubled, going from 15 percent to 28 percent. Burge finds that in 1995, a high school senior was twice as likely to say that religion was very important as they were to say it was not important at all. By 2022, a 12th grader was almost 50 percent more likely to place no importance on religion than to say it was very important. But, again, the middle two categories have stayed very static during this time period. In 1995, the most chosen responses of high school seniors were attending church weekly and indicating that religion was very important, with about one in five respondents fitting into these categories. Just 9 percent of the sample said that they never attended religious services and that religion was not important at all. Now, only 11 percent of high school seniors attend services weekly and deem religion very important. Burge concludes, “There’s no other way to look at this than high school seniors, male, female, educated, non-educated, are a whole lot less religious now than they were back in the mid-1990s.”

  • A large majority of U.S. adults say that religion’s role in public life has declined, a trend that most of these adults find unfavorable, a Pew Research Center report finds. The survey found that 80 percent of U.S. adults agree with the statement that the role of faith in everyday American life is shrinking. This is the highest percentage holding this view since Pew first asked this question in 2002, when only 52 percent agreed that religion’s influence in the U.S. had waned. Nearly half of the new survey’s respondents (49 percent) said both that religion is losing influence and that this is a bad thing, while 8 percent thought that religion’s influence is growing and that this is a good thing. Fewer respondents had a negative view of religion, saying either that its shrinking influence is a good thing (13 percent) or that its growing influence is bad (6 percent). The survey found that Christians (64 percent) were the largest group holding a positive view of religion’s role in American life.

    Many Christians also said that their religious beliefs made them feel like a minority group (38 percent of Hispanic Protestants, 37 percent of white evangelicals, and 25 percent each of Catholics and black Protestants). Other findings include an increase in the share of respondents who say that the best course of action is to avoid talking about religion if someone disagrees with you (from 33 percent in 2019 to 41 percent today) and an increase (to 48 percent from 42 percent four years ago) in the share who agree that there is “a great deal” or “some” conflict between their religious beliefs and mainstream American culture. Seventy-two percent of religiously unaffiliated adults accuse conservative Christians of having gone too far in pushing religion in government and public schools, while about the same percentage (73 percent) of conservative Christians say the same about secular progressives pushing secularism.

    (The Pew report can be downloaded from:

  • A new Gallup Poll finds that the percentage of adults who report regularly attending religious services remains low, with only 3 in 10 Americans reporting weekly or almost weekly attendance. Among the survey’s respondents, 21 percent say they attend religious services every week and 9 percent say they attend almost every week, while 11 percent report attending about once a month and 56 percent say they either seldom (25 percent) or never (31 percent) attend. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stood out as the most observant religious group, with two-thirds attending church weekly or nearly weekly. Protestants (including nondenominational Christians) ranked second, with 44 percent attending services regularly, followed by Muslims (38 percent) and Catholics (33 percent). Majorities of Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, Buddhist, and Hindu Americans say they seldom or never attend religious services. (Twenty-six percent of Orthodox adults, 22 percent of Jewish adults, 14 percent of Buddhist adults, and 13 percent of Hindu adults report attending services regularly.) Buddhist adults are much more likely to say they seldom or never attend (75 percent) than Hindu adults (51 percent). Two decades ago, an average of 42 percent of U.S. adults attended religious services every week or nearly every week, with that figure falling to 38 percent a decade later. While this decline is largely driven by the increase in the percentage of non-affiliated Americans, most religious groups have also seen a decline in regular attendance.

    (The Gallup report can be downloaded at:

  • According to a new study reported in the Journal of Religion and Health (pre-published in March), religious reasons may not have been central for most Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jews who avoided the Covid-19 vaccine. Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel had both the highest Covid-19 infection rate and the lowest vaccination rate compared to the general population, which led Miriam Schiff and Nitzan Sharon-Lavi (Hebrew University) to explore the rates of vaccine uptake among different ultra-Orthodox subgroups and the reported motives for vaccination avoidance. Making up 12 percent of the Israeli population, the ultra-Orthodox community is divided into three main subgroups: Hasidic, Lithuanian/Misnagdim, and Sephardim. While all are observant of religious law and traditional values, Misnagdim place more emphasis on a rational approach and on cognitive powers. For analyzing ultra-Orthodox attitudes toward vaccination, the researchers used Protection Motivation Theory (PMT), according to which “the individual undergoes a two-stage process before deciding to be engaged in a health-protective behavior: threat appraisal and coping appraisal.” Based on a survey conducted by a specialized team familiar with the ultra-Orthodox milieu on a fairly representative sample (except for the one-third of the community without phone or internet access), two-thirds of the ultra-Orthodox population appeared to have been vaccinated with at least one dose. The rate was lower among women, apparently due to being pregnant or concerns about potential harm to fertility.

    An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man receives a vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a temporary vaccination centre in the Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank February 16, 2021.Source: Reuters | Ronen Zvulun.

    Other surveys confirm a higher rate of refusal among younger ultra-Orthodox women in comparison with older women, while no age difference has been observed among male ultra-Orthodox. While this requires further study, the authors suggest that “the risk of harming fertility may be perceived by ultra-Orthodox women as a potential violation of a major religious role and the core role of women in this community.” Compared with other subgroups, the Lithuanian/Misnagdim had a higher rate of vaccination and lower mistrust of its efficacy, reflecting their greater openness toward secular information and scientific data. Among those who refused to get vaccinated, with multiple responses possible, the most frequent answer was that they had received immunity from Covid-19 (63 percent), while 36 percent cited concerns about the harm the vaccine might cause in the long run. Very few selected religious reasons for not being vaccinated, with 5.3 percent stating that their rabbi had told them not to get vaccinated. Except for the possible connection between religious beliefs and concerns about harm to fertility among women, “barriers to vaccination among the ultra-Orthodox Jews are not religious-framed but more related to lack of knowledge, fears, trust, and logistics.”

    (Journal of Religion and Health,