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

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Religion Statistics

There's kind of an assorted mish-mash of info drawn from two large phone surveys about religious practice over at "The Graduate Center conducted a National Survey of Religious Identification (NSRI) in 1990. It questioned 113,723 individuals about how they viewed themselves religiously. A similar American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) was conducted in 2001-FEB to APR. The latter included telephone interviews of 50,281 persons who were 18 years of age or older."

Now, just as a note of caution, the fact that their sources have been trying to use the 1990 and 2001 survey to guage growth is problematic given that these were separate surveys with different questions conductioned by different organizations with different methodologies. To make more definative statements about how religous practice and belief have increased or decreased, you'd want the same organization to ask the same questions. (Perhaps even more interesting would be to actually follow up ten years later with a large sample group and see how that paricular sample group has changed over the years.)

There are also some topics the authors seem over-interested in. For example, although Wicca is growing fast on a percentage basis, that's just because the difference between zero and any positive number is an infinite percentage growth. There were so incredibly few Wiccans in 1990 (about 8000 nationally according to the NSRI study) that their percentage growth doesn't actually say anything about their longer term viability as a belief system.

However, after all those qualifications, there are some interesting things to be found here.

On conversions:

The ARIS survey asked the subjects whether they had changed their religious identification during their lifetime. Some results:

  • About 16% of adults have changed their identification.

  • For the largest group, the change was abandoning all religion.

  • Baptists picked up the largest number of any religion: 4.4 million. But they also lost 4.6 million.

  • Roman Catholics lost the greatest number, 9.5 million. However, they also picked up 4.3 million.

The pollsters commented: "Some groups such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses appear to attract a large number of converts (in-switchers), but also nearly as large a number of apostates (out-switchers). It is also interesting to note that Buddhists also fall into this category of what one might call high-turnover religious groups."

Retaining Youth:

It is common for young adults to drift away from the faith group of their youth. Some never return. The large liberal and mainline Christian denominations seem to lose large numbers in this way. Only between 10 and 12% of those identifying with the Congregational, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church denominations are between the ages of 18 and 29. Islam and Buddhism appear to fare the best in this area; 56 and 58% of persons identifying with these religions are in this age group.

Gender Differences:

The ratio of females to males who identify with different faith groups varies over a wide ratio. Only 38 or 39% of Seventh-Day Adventists, Buddhists, and Muslims are women; 55% or more of the persons identifying with the Episcopalian, Methodist, Pentecostal, or Presbyterian denominations are female.

And, or course, Political Affiliation:

Adults identifying with a specific faith group are almost evenly split among Republicans, Democrats and Independents. But those who do not identify with a religion are 43% Independent, 39% Democrat, and 17% Republican.

59% of Assemblies of God followers prefer the Republican party; only 13% of religious Jews and 9% of Buddhists agree. 56% of Jews prefer the Democratic party; only 14% of Mormons and 12% of those who identify themselves simply a Evangelical or Born-again agree.

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