Monday, June 30, 2008

Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey

The survey (breathtaking in scope) was released last week. You can view all kinds of interesting stats and download the whole thing here.

I created a little spreadsheet to compare various denomination's results on questions that I was particularly interested in. There are some interesting trends. The questions I looked at in particular were:

Belief in God

Importance of Religion in One's Life
Frequency of Attendance at Religious Services
Frequency of Prayer
Frequency of receiving answers to prayers
Literal Interpretation of Scripture
Interpretation of Religious teachings
View of One's religion as the One True Faith
Views about Abortion
Views about Homosexuality

The LCMS, ELCA, and Catholic response rates for the various views on each question are about the same--usually within a few percentage points of each other. The Southern Baptist responses are significantly different than the others--sometimes by 20 percentage points or more on certain responses to questions.

There were a few exceptions, for instance, on the question of how the literalness of the Bible, the LCMS responses were somewhere between the ELCA/Catholic and the SBC.

If you want to see for yourself, get the report, or download my spreadsheet here.


  1. Doorman-Priest said...

    Are you trend spotting then Christopher? Is there information here the church should be surprised about?

  2. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Not sure, Doorman. I'm actually not surprised at the figures for my denomination--they seem about right, however depressing they may be for an idealist. A little surprised that there is not a big difference between us and Catholics on many issues--a few percentage points is all.

    Not sure what to make of it at this point, though. You have ideas?

  3. orrologion said...

    What I always find weird about such studies is that they really say very little about those that are truly members of a church, and more about those that have a sociological tie to that church body. The fact that not all supposed 'believers' believed in God points to the self-selecting nature of a study like this. I would be more interested in seeing the results broken out according to those who believe in God and attend regularly. That would tell us more about the people in those denominations. It would be a valuable missiological and pastoral tool to also be able to see broken out the view of those that self-identify as a member of a given faith community, but who don't believe in God and don't regularly attend. There is less value, though, when they are all mixed together.

    It's like asking a random American what their ethnic background is, then querying them on the politics back yonder (Italian, British, Quebecois, German and American Indian for me) and thinking their opinion or lack thereof says something about where that country's political mind lies. I am not British, though I have a British passport and self-identify as being of British ancestry; my views on Labor vs. Tory say nothing about what Brits think about politics because I do not live there and never have. Same with self-identifying members of different faith communities.

    Of course, some religions can claim adherents based on any number of factors beyond regular attendance, e.g., blood, birth, religious rite, past affiliation, etc. For instance, at what point does a baptized Christian cease to be a Christian? Is it possible for one born to a Jewish mother not to be considered rabbinically Jewish? Would Islam always consider one born Muslim to be Muslim, or an apostate from their true faith?

  4. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Christopher--From a pastoral point of view, I agree with you absolutely. But I think the intent of the survey was on the religious and public life of America, and I think these such surveys have value too. Re: the SBC--they are either that much more pious than the rest of us, or they lie alot :).

    But about the Jewish question. It turns out that my great-great maternal grandmother (mother's mother's mother's mother) was Jewish, so I once asked a Rabbi if that made me Jewish. He said, "Absolutely! You are get a circumcision or have it blessed by an Orthodox Rabbi, and reclaim your Jewish heritage."

    So (for fun, mostly) I refer to myself as a Jew, though I was raised solidly in the Lutheran Church and my own (Jewish) Grandmother couldn't tolerate the hint that her grandmother was somehow less Lutheran and less German than she was ;).

    One step removed from the guy on Seinfeld, I am.

  5. Doorman-Priest said...

    Not entirely surprised. I often find that regular members of the congregation are "off message" when it comes to what the church expects of them I find this generally reassuring.

  6. Dixie said...

    I only recently was able to download your spreadsheet and I have to say I was shocked. The Baptists do give better answers! I checked out some of the Orthodox answers and have to admit they weren't the billboard results blinking "here's the Church" either. But good on those Baptists.

    Now...if we could only get them to actually believe in Baptism....