True Churchgoing Revealed
by Tom Flynn
Americans may believe in a god who sees everything, but they lie about how often they
go to church. Since 1939, the Gallup organization has reported that 40% of adults attend
church weekly. (The most recent figure is 42%.) Gallup's figure has long attracted
skepticism. Were it true, some 73 million people would throng the nation's houses of
worship each week. Even the conservative Washington Times found that "hard to
imagine." New research suggests that there may be only half to two-thirds that many
people in the pews.
In 1992 C. Kirk Hadaway, a sociologist employed by the United
Church of Christ, assembled an army of researchers and counted noses in every
Protestant church in Ashtabula County, Ohio. Only 20 percent of adult members were there,
half what Gallup predicted. After more such counts, Hadaway, Penny Long Marler, and Mark
Chaves published a 1993 paper announcing that churchgoing was "probably one-half what
everyone thinks it is" and suggesting that the secularization of society was real.
Answering critics in the American
Sociological Review, the trio announced a wealth of new counting studies that continue
to show actual attendance at about half the levels reported in polls.
Other researchers agree that over-reporting is real, but think Hadaway and his
colleagues overstate its scope. Stanley Presser of the University of Maryland and Linda
Stinson of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics studied diaries that Americans kept as part
of marketing and public health studies. They found that in 1965, church attendance was
around 40%, just as Gallup claimed. In later years churchgoing declined. Presser and
Stinson now peg churchgoing at 26%. This suggests that Gallup now overreports church
attendance by about a third.
Some pollsters have refined their survey instruments after the 1993 Hadaway paper.
Gallup changed its questions, but continued to report weekly churchgoing at over 40%. Yet
when the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) redesigned its mammoth General Social
Survey (GSS), church attendance figures declined sharply. For many years GSS data had
supported Gallup's; the redesigned 1996 GSS reported that only between 29 and 30.5% of
Americans attended church in the last week, a figure similar to Presser and Stinson's.
Hadaway, Marler, and Chaves wonder, "To what extent do these findings challenge
the conventional wisdom that Americans are a very religious people?" At the least,
they would seem to reinforce the claim that despite the rhetoric, active religious
participation remains a minority interest in American life.
"New Age" Captures the Workplace
by Matt Nisbet
The workplace has become a cold, dark and soulless realm ... or so we are told by The
Inner Edge: A Resource for Enlightened Business Practice. Published by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, Edge
is a glossy catalogue disguised as a magazine that offers the New Age as the solution to
worker unhappiness and business inefficiency.
"It's time to practice business as unusual," says Edge's editor
Carol S. Pearson, Ph.D.. "People today are talking about their longing for community,
spirituality, dignity, and sense of purpose in the workplace." According to the pages
of The Inner Edge, from small business to Fortune 500, American offices are
rife with Dilbert cynicism, sullied by "Ally McBeal" materialism and dangerously
full of "L.A. Law" ruthlessness. It's an Orwellian environ dominated by
cubicles, cold office technology, and organizational sclerosis. "Companies that do
not attend to issues of emotional and spiritual intelligence risk going the way of the
dinosaur," warns Pearson.
The Inner Edge offers solutions by way of author profiles, perspectives,
and book reviews that are heavy on glamour photos of Ph.D. authors and consultants. Each
article carries suggested books or audiotapes with 800 numbers to charge by phone.
Advice reaches heavily into New Age jargon, with gurus dressed in business suits
outlining the "ritualized rites of passage" needed to become a "change
master" or heralding the time to "heal the Split Lodgepole ... mend the Rainbow
Hoop ... and restore the vision of the Braided Way." In the process, workers can
throw away the shackles of servitude to the "God of economics" and start
bettering themselves and American culture.
Whether The Inner Edge's approach to business can solve the problems of
the American workplace is in doubt, but it's clear that The Inner Edge is the
latest addition to a growing multi-million dollar New Age marketing web that relies on the
lure of books, seminars, videos, magazines, merchandise, and audiotapes to capitalize on
the yearnings of unhappy people. In the end, the most striking revelation found in The
Inner Edge is that a few entrepreneurial gurus have grown an industry out of
Preaching Allowed in Public Schools
by Chris Mooney
Until further notice, feel free to preach in public schools in Colorado, Kansas, New
Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming (the territory of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals).
Just don't come out and say that your intentions are religious.
That's the upshot of the Supreme Court's refusal last June to reconsider, much less
overturn, the Tenth Circuit's ruling in Rachel Bauchman v. West High School.
The decision to turn away the case ignored an amici curiae brief endorsed by the
During the 1994-1995 school year, Rachel Bauchman, a Jewish sophomore at West High in
Salt Lake City, Utah, joined the school choir. She was immediately forced to endure choir
leader Richard Torgerson's Mormon proselytizing, which included in-class prayer and
According to Rachel's statement, when she voiced objection to Torgerson's conduct, he
began to berate her in his lectures and showed a complaint letter from Rachel's father to
another choir member's parents. Following this incident, Rachel's classmates took to
calling her "Dirty Jew," "Jew Bitch," told her to "go back to
Israel," and even drew a Nazi swastika on a poster she made for class.
The Tenth Circuit ruled that, because plausible secular purposes for his conduct
existed, Torgerson's intention to inculcate religion had not been convincingly
The Tenth Circuit decision thus sets a precedent for shifting an excessive burden of
proof onto the plaintiff in Establishment Clause suits. The silence of the Supreme Court,
meanwhile, signals its tacit approval of a ruling that contradicts crucial First Amendment
Religious Grip Slips in Newfoundland
by Andrea Szalanski
Newfoundland public schools are finally free of their religious administrators.
Last year a nonbinding referendum was held to gauge public opinion on the issue.
Seventy-three percent voted to oust the former set-up in favor of a nondenominational
system that accommodates religious instruction and observances. The switch was supported
by the Anglican church and four other denominations who had been administering the
schools, but was opposed by the Catholic and Pentecostal churches.
A 1995 referendum produced the same result but was prevented from being implemented by
court challenges from parents. More than $7 million in government funds had to be used to
open denominational schools that had been slated for closing.
The Canadian parliament is still deciding whether to end church-run schooling in the
province of Quebec. There religious-based school boards would be replaced with linguistic
Unbelief Among Top Scientists Growing
by Tom Flynn
The same authors who reported no decline in religious belief among American scientists
since 1916 now announce that, during the same period, faith declined sharply among natural
scientists of top rank.
In a letter to Nature (July 23, 1998,
p. 313), University of Georgia historian of science
Edward J. Larson and Washington Times reporter
Larry Witham described a survey of religious beliefs they administered to 517 American
scientists who belong to the prestigious National
Academy of Sciences (NAS). Larson and Witham's survey closely replicated a survey of
400 "greater" scientists performed in 1914 by psychologist James H. Leuba and
repeated by Leuba in 1933. Leuba, an atheist, expected religious belief to decline with
increasing education and accomplishment, and it did. Leuba found distinguished scientists
significantly less likely to believe in God and immortality than their less-accomplished
contemporaries. Further, religious belief among top scientists sagged further during the
19 years between Leuba's two studies.
Larson and Witham polled NAS members in a mix of disciplines mirroring that originally
polled by Leuba. The results seem stark: belief in God and immortality were precipitously
lower than what Leuba reported. "Among the top natural scientists," Larson and
Witham observe, "disbelief is greater than ever - almost total." The accompanying table compares belief, disbelief,
or doubt regarding God and human immortality as measured in 1914, 1933, and 1998.
Biological scientists rejected beliefs in God and immortality by 65.2% and 69.0%,
respectively; among physical scientists, those beliefs were rejected by 79.0% and 76.3% of
respondents. "Most of the rest were agnostic on both issues," Larson and Witham
report, "with few believers." Of all disciplines polled, mathematicians reported
the highest level of positive belief in God and immortality, biologists the lowest.
These findings are doubly startling because just two years ago, the same researchers
announced their replication of another classic Leuba study. In that survey, 40% of a more
general sample of scientists reported belief in God and immortality - almost exactly the
result Leuba obtained polling a like population of scientists in 1914. (Leuba's finding
that "only" 40% of scientists held religious beliefs shocked America when he
published it in 1916.) In April 1997, Larson and Witham announced in Nature
that they had administered a similar survey to 1,000 scientists in the same mix of
disciplines, and found belief still holding at 40%.
Conservatives hailed the study as proof that secularization was losing momentum.
Critics pointed out methodological problems and unexplained declines in belief on
particular indices ("Faith Steady Among Scientists - Or Is It?" FI, Summer 1997).
Despite its ambiguities, many saw the Larson and Witham study as a bellwether of warmer
relations between science and religion. Since then, institutions such as the Templeton Fund have stepped up their pace in
bestowing awards, making grants, and holding conferences to further promote the
rapprochement of science and religion. At the same time, organizations from the National Center for Science Education to the NAS itself have sought to blunt creation/evolution
conflicts by minimizing suggestions of direct opposition between science and religion per
Not surprisingly, part of that debate surrounds Larson and Witham's methodology. Some
observers voice concern about selection bias: the 517 NAS members polled by Larson and
Witham represent a smaller, hence more elite, slice of the scientific community than did
the 400 "greater scientists"; Leube surveyed in 1914. That may make it difficult
to draw valid conclusions about trends in religious belief over time. But it does nothing
to blunt another provocative finding: within the scientific community, highly advanced
accomplishments seem to correlate negatively with religious belief. That alone is grist
for secularists who suspect that the opposition between science and religion is historic
Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham, "Leading Scientists Still Reject God."
Nature, July 23, 1998, p. 313.