February 25th, 2008

The Fickle Faithful

According to a new study, Americans change religious affiliation at a high rate.
28% of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another one. And that does not even include those who switched from one Protestant denomination to another; if it did, the number would jump to 44%
And guess who the biggest net recipient is?
The single biggest "winner," in terms of number gained versus number lost, was not a religious group at all, but the "unaffiliated" category. About 16% of those polled defined their religious affiliation that way (including people who regarded themselves as religious, along with atheists and agnostics); only 7% had been brought up that way.
But lots of people stop being "unaffiliated" too, and go back to various forms of religious belief.

The researchers emphasize the constantly churning membership of these groups.  The most extreme case of "churn" seems to be the Jehovah's Witnesses...
...with a turnover rate of about two-thirds. That means that two-thirds of the people who told Pew they were raised Jehovah's Witnesses no longer are - yet the group attracts roughly the same number of converts. Notes Lugo, "No wonder they have to keep on knocking on doors."
At least we can rejoice
That we even have the choice
To chase our spiritual yearnings
Through a multitude of churnings.