Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Surveying Catholics

 It's been quiet in these pages for a while, in part because of a series of guests over the Thanksgiving week, and in part due to other writing projects, but now that those are behind us I wanted to link to one of the things which has been taking up a great deal of my time lately. 

I had the opportunity to design, conduct, and analyze the Pillar survey of Religious Attitudes and Practices, something which start-to-finish took about three months.  

There are several large surveys which religious questions as well as other political and sociological ones, such as the General Social Survey and the Cooperative Election Survey, and other surveys occasionally touch on religious questions such as the often discussed result which Pew Research found in 2019 that only about sixty percent of Catholics who go to Mass on a weekly basis believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But there are fairly few surveys focused primarily on religious subjects. Via The Pillar's commitment to producing original data-driven journalism on the Church, I got the chance to make an original contribution by organizing and running one.  If you'd like to support the continuance of that kind of journalism (and get articles delivered to your email twice a week) it's worth subscribing

The Catholic Church is famously not a democracy, and more generally it seems clear to any serious believer that matters of doctrine are not set by majority rule, so doing a survey on religious belief and practice is necessarily diagnostic. We tried to design a set of questions which would help us understand the beliefs and practices of Americans in general, and more specifically the beliefs of Catholics and those who were raised Catholic but no longer practice the faith.

The high level result is a snapshot of a country in which 22% of Americans are cradle Catholics, 2% are Catholic converts, and 10% were raised Catholic but now describe themselves as belonging to some other faith (or none at all.)

Conversion turns out to be a major component of American religion.  Almost 30% of survey respondents now describe themselves as some other faith than the one in which they were brought up. But the Catholic Church has fewer converts, on a percent basis, than any other religious tradition.

In additional to the overview linked above, I wrote five detailed articles for The Pillar analyzing the results, and we also made the data publicly available for others who would be interested in using it for analysis. You can reach all of those via the overview here. I hope people will find it interesting.

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