01: Though there has been sharp debate over whether church attendance is declining in the U.S., a recent analysis of data suggests a pattern of stability. In the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion(September), Stanley Presser and Mark Chaves write that such debate has intensified as self-reporting attendance figures have been found to tend toward over- reporting. Other recent studies, such as those by political scientist Robert Putnam, have reported decline from the 1960s to the late 1990s.
Presser and Chaves look at religious attendance levels and trends from 1990 to the present through examining interviewer-administered questions about attendance as found in the General Social Survey; interviewer-administered questions about time-use (where respondents are asked to describe their primary activities of the preceding day); and self-administered questions. The authors find that weekly attendance at religious services has been stable between 1990 and the present. Taking a longer view, Presser and Chaves argue that the best evidence–from time-use studies– suggests that weekly attendance at religious services declined between 1950 and 1990, and has remained stable since then.
(Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Cavanaugh Hall 417, 425 University Blvd, Indianapolis, IN 46202-5140)
02: Psychiatrists are the least religious of all the medical specialties, and the most religious doctors are the least likely to refer their patients for psychiatric treatment, according to a recent study. The survey, conducted among 100 psychiatrists and 1,044 other specialists, asked respondents about their attitudes toward religion in clinical practice, such as whether they had inquired about their patients’ religious beliefs.The New York Times (September 18) reports that although psychiatrists were just as likely as other physicians to agree that religious beliefs influenced their practice–with about half saying it did–only 29 percent of them, compared with 47 percent of other doctors, said they attended religious services more than once a month.
Forty two percent of psychiatrists described themselves as spiritual or religious, compared to 53 percent of other doctors. About one-third of psychiatrists, but almost half of other physicians, said they looked to God for strength, support or guidance. Psychiatrists were significantly more likely to be Jewish or have no affiliation than be Protestant or Catholic. The study also found that although most doctors would refer patients to psychiatrists, Protestants were about half as likely to do so as those with no religious affiliation, as they preferred clergy or other religious counselors.
03: Most American Protestant young adults between the ages of 18 and 22 take a break of a year or more from regularly attending services, according to a new survey. The survey, conducted by LifeWay Research of more than 1,000 young adults 18-30, found that 70 percent of those who attended a Protestant church for at least a year in high school had stopped attending for at least a year in the four years after graduation. Only 20 percent of these church dropouts said they had planned to leave while they were attending church regularly.
Ninety-seven percent cited “change of life” factors in their discontinuation of attending services, such as attending college, though the most cited reason (27 percent) was “simply [wanting] a break from church.” Among the former dropouts who are now ages 25-30, a good percentage (35 percent) did return to attending twice a month or more. Another 30 percent attend sporadically, reports Baptists Today.
(Baptists Today, P.O. Box 6318, Macon, GA 31208-6318.)