Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Unexpected Face of the Faithful (II)

We've discussed how the more educated surprisingly are more likely to attend church.   Another study found that while religious attendance is dropping overall, it is dropping faster in less educated whites.
“Our study suggests that the less-educated are dropping out of the American religious sector, similarly to the way in which they have dropped out of the American labor market,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, who was lead researcher on the project…..

The study focuses on white Americans because church attendance among blacks and Latinos is less divided by education and income.
So, while many tend to think that religion is the pablum for the uneducated masses, that's too simplistic a view.
Lower church attendance among the less-educated may stem from a disconnect between them and modern church values, the study theorizes.

Religious institutions tend to promote traditional middle-class family values like education, marriage and parenthood, but less-educated whites are less likely to get or stay married and may feel ostracized by their religious peers, the researchers said.

The researchers expressed concern about the falloff in church attendance among the less-educated.

“This development reinforces the social marginalization of less educated Americans who are also increasingly disconnected from the institutions of marriage and work,” said Andrew Cherlin, co-author of the study and a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University.
This concern makes sense.  A few weeks ago, I described how the bad economy is affecting marriage, particularly amongst those most likely to be suffering.  And those are largely red-state citizens.  Less likely to be married.  Less likely to go to church.   And the less educated you are, the more likely you are to be jobless.

These observations suggest a segment of American society that is falling further behind, losing social cohesion and connection. It's not surprising they are angry and resentful. They may still identify as Christian, but it's a tribal identity, rather than a religious one. And it's a recipe for social disaster.


JCF said...

To put it another way: it's no coincidence that the USA was at its "most religious" in the 1950s & 60s, when the USA had its largest % middle-class.

Religious participation begins w/ the regular "Sabbath Day of Rest". How many minimum wage-slaves (lucky to have THAT job!) don't have the luxury of the (*consistent*) Sabbath?

While many Third-World countries may be nominally "very religious", many of them don't have high corporate religious participation.

The USA is becoming like that.


A related thought, apropos one of my Favorite Brides on her 50th wedding anniversary---

I'm sure you've all popped over to "Wounded Bird" to wish G'mere & G'pere a happy anniversary. But were any of the rest of you struck by the NON-"Bridezilla"ness of them?

TEC needs to encourage more marriages (opposite- AND same-sex!) like THAT (welcoming couples' kids to be part of the wedding!)

Marriage should NOT be only for the wealthy (anymore than it should be only for the straight). Couples of modest means---EVEN the unemployed---can and SHOULD be encouraged to marry (w/ proper pre-marital counseling, of course). {{{Mimi & Tom}}} can lead the way! :-)

Chris H. said...

I may have to bring this up in a discussion group my adult Sunday School class just started about "Christian Atheists". The author/speaker of the class talks about the church as a country club. Those who aren't rich, married, don't have the right jobs, etc. don't come/return because they don't fit in, becoming in time the "spiritual but not religious." Unfortunately, the Episcopal church here IS the local Country Club at prayer. Thanks for the post/info.

dr.primrose said...

Thought-provoking article in the N.Y. Times, Beyond ‘New Atheism’. IT, I'd be particuarly interested in your thoughts. Some excerpts:


Led by the biologist Richard Dawkins, the author of “The God Delusion,” atheism has taken on a new life in popular religious debate. Dawkins’s brand of atheism is scientific in that it views the “God hypothesis” as obviously inadequate to the known facts. In particular, he employs the facts of evolution to challenge the need to postulate God as the designer of the universe. For atheists like Dawkins, belief in God is an intellectual mistake, and honest thinkers need simply to recognize this and move on from the silliness and abuses associated with religion.

Most believers, however, do not come to religion through philosophical arguments. Rather, their belief arises from their personal experiences of a spiritual world of meaning and values, with God as its center.

In the last few years there has emerged another style of atheism that takes such experiences seriously. One of its best exponents is Philip Kitcher, a professor of philosophy at Columbia. (For a good introduction to his views, see Kitcher’s essay in “The Joy of Secularism,” perceptively discussed last month by James Wood in The New Yorker.)

Instead of focusing on the scientific inadequacy of theistic arguments, Kitcher critically examines the spiritual experiences underlying religious belief, particularly noting that they depend on specific and contingent social and cultural conditions. ...

Even more important, Kitcher takes seriously the question of whether atheism can replace the sense of meaning and purpose that believers find in religion. Pushed to the intellectual limit, many will prefer a religion of hope if faith is not possible. For them, Tennyson’s “‘the stars,’ she whispers, ‘blindly run’” is a prospect too bleak to sustain our existence. Kitcher agrees that mere liberation from theism is not enough. Atheists, he maintains, need to undertake the positive project of showing how their worldview can take over what he calls the ethical “functions” of theism.

Erika Baker said...

I don't know about your American churches but ours here aren't particularly friendly for those not on the economically viable waggon. They're the ones "we" minister to, they're not really part of "us".

In evangelical churches you're often seen as the architect of your own misfortune because you didn't pray right or because you don't have enough faith - we know that God hear's prayer, don't we!

The emphasis in other churches is on giving, time, money, effort - but what can you give when you're so beaten by life that you need a place for healing first?

Despite the rethoric, I don't think we're very good at welcoming all as our equals without pity or judgement.

IT said...

Yes, Primrose, I'd agree. I think spiritual experiences are real. I think for many if not most people there's a need to find a meaning and a transcendence. How that "religion gene" is expressed is of course context-dependent. Where some of the religious fail is that they do not recognize nor acknowledge that not everyone is programmed to perceive those experiences. I have often felt it must be very comforting to have that sense of "god" and wished I could share it.

Andrew Sullivan had a link recently suggesting that the creation wasn't the physical being of an Adam, but the dawn of self-awareness.

Erika Baker said...

"Andrew Sullivan had a link recently suggesting that the creation wasn't the physical being of an Adam, but the dawn of self-awareness."

Yes, and the "Fall" was precisely that time in evolution when we became self reflective and began to be able to distinguish between morally right and morally wrong actions.

Irenaeus already saw glimpses of it in c.125-c.202. Shame Augustine won that particular intellectual battle! http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/zim/ev/ev_01evolution_sin13.html

JCF said...

What Erika said at September 15, 2011 10:48 AM:

"Despite the rethoric, I don't think we're very good at welcoming all as our equals without pity or judgement."