Americans Have Lost Faith In Religious Leaders And Church Attendance, New Book Says
But in a new book on religious trends in the United States, a Duke University professor says this picture of an unflinchingly faithful America is not quite accurate. At least when it comes to traditional religious practices, Americans’ belief has faded in recent decades, says professor Mark Chaves.
Take the well-known fact that fewer Americans are joining the clergy. The Roman Catholic Church in the United States, for example, has experienced a sharp decline in priests.
Part of the reason, Chaves says, could be that Americans have lost respect for religious leaders. That’s one of several findings in his book “American Religion: Contemporary Trends,” which is being released Sunday.
Chaves, a professor of sociology, religion and divinity, found that between 1973 and 2008, the percentage of people with “great confidence” in religious leaders declined from 35 percent to less than 25 percent. He also found that two-thirds of Americans say they would prefer religious leaders to stay out of politics.
Using data from the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study, Chaves looked at developments in American religion since 1972. The General Social Survey, which began that year, is an ongoing look at American attitudes and behaviors by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, while the National Congregations Study — a project Chaves directed — examined congregations in the United States from several religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. [more]