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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Americans Are Still Religious

The United States remains an outlier among Western industrial nations in the extent to which faith influences public life.  Many of our posts have discussed the ongoing role of religion. Gallup reports:
Sixty-nine percent of American adults are very or moderately religious, based on self-reports of the importance of religion in their daily lives and attendance at religious services. Within that group, 40% are very religious, meaning that they attend religious services regularly and they say religion is important in their daily lives.
These data are based on more than 320,000 interviews conducted by Gallup between Jan. 2 and Nov. 30 of this year. Similar data going back to 2008 form the basis of the new book God Is Alive and Well: The Future of Religion in America.
Though there are some indications that religious devotion may have waned in recent years, Gallup suggests that it may rise again:
God Is Alive and Well reviews potential changes in religion in the U.S going forward. Although it is always difficult to predict the future, certain trends in the age composition of the American public suggest that religion may become increasingly important in the years to come. This is mostly the result of the fact that the number of Americans who are 65 and older will essentially double over the next 20 years, dramatically increasing the number of older Americans. As long as these aging baby boomers become more religious as they age -- following the path of their elders -- the average religiousness in the population will go up. [emphasis added]
This trend could be counterbalanced by a lowered fertility rate among younger Americans, which is important given the significant correlation between having children and being religious.
Religiousness is significantly related to wellbeing and health. This fact may become better known in the future, increasing the chance that Americans -- particularly aging baby boomers -- may look to religion as a positive component of their way of life. Business and government leaders may take these correlates of religiousness into account in their quest to increase employee wellbeing and lower healthcare costs.
Additionally, Americans have been migrating to more religious rather than less religious states over the past decade, something that could have its own effect on the religiousness of the nation.