Religion still has a prayer in the US

American religion is on the ropes, but it has a prayer.

A record-low share of Americans attend church regularly, affiliate with a religious faith and see themselves as religious, according to a major survey released this week.

The findings from mark a continuation of a decades-long departure from the pews along with a growing share who profess loyalty to no religion at all. But whatever Americans’ hang-ups with weekend services and denominational ties, they haven’t stopped praying on their own.

Fully 57 percent of respondents said they pray at least once a day, little different from 54 percent in 1983, when the question was first asked on the survey. Three-quarters of respondents said they pray at least once a week, while 1 in 4 pray less often or never.

The national survey is the broadest study of attitudes in the United States. It has been conducted at least every two years since 1972 by the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.

The stability of prayer contrasts sharply with erosion on other measures of religious commitment.
The resilience of prayer reflects a broader shift in Americans’ understanding of religion, according to Christian Smith, a professor of sociology who leads the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society.

“Religion is gradually becoming more personal, private, subjective in practice” and “less public, institutional and shared,” Smith said. “People still believe religious things and practice religion ‘in their heads,’ as in prayer, but are less institutionally connected and engage in fewer public, institution-centered observations.”

Many who have shed affiliations or seldom attend services continue to pray regularly, according to the survey. Roughly 1 in 4 Americans who report no religious preference say they pray at least once a day, as do about 3 in 10 of those who never attend religious services.

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19 thoughts on “Religion still has a prayer in the US

  1. Probably a symptom of churches not keeping up on morality issues and being passive-aggressive rather than loving to certain groups of outsiders. Scandals and corruption in churches certainly doesn’t help matters. Thoughtful people don’t want to be a part of non-humanistic approaches, but they do still seek hope in the great unknown and can likely find solace in Jesus’ humanistic approach.

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    • Nah, my reasons for leaving the Church have nothing to do with that. But then you need to be a genuine Christian in the first place to understand the ‘deeper’ issues involved here, otherwise you’re just an ‘outsider’ looking in and making judgments, without any real comprehension of spiritual realities.

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      • I’m sure there are other reasons too, those are just the more obvious ones that I have observed having an impact on people’s views of churches. Some US-style Christianity certainly encourages ignorance and nastiness toward others, which tends to reflect on Christianity as a whole as well.

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  2. I remember a scripture that says; “a time cometh and now is, when true believers will worship in spirit and in truth”. That was probably in Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman. He said it will no longer matter whether people worshiped at the mountain or the valley, but that God Himself will be their God and they will be His people.
    Spirituality is personal. The shift may just be real. Religion is not exactly spirituality and they could be confused or mixed up… Hope I’m making sense?
    Nice post!

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    • Yes, teeceecounsel. “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time,” says the Lord. “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
      God doesn’t live only in churches.

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      • Bryan,
        this posting has nothing to do with the present topics, but I feel it needs to be said.

        I have felt a real ache as I read of the terrible destruction of ancient monuments and artifacts by the vandals in Northern Iraq. Sadly such occurrences have occurred throughout history as fanatics imagined that they were doing the will of their gods and religions in destroying the rivals.

        The ancient Hebrews repeatedly vented their wrath on the High Places and monuments of the Heathen, throughout the history tales of the Old Testament.
        The Romans in 70 AD were engaged in shattering old Jerusalem and demolishing the beautiful 2nd Temple. Of course it must be remembered that it was not for religious purposes in this case, it was for political reasons.

        During the persecution of Christians under Rome through the earliest centuries, Christians did not have either Churches or statuary, and only their sacred writings were confiscated and burnt under Decius. The catacombs tended to be treated as ‘sacro-sanct’ by the Romans, and so were luckily not destroyed.

        Following the rule of Constantine and then Theodosius, Pagan temples with their beautiful statuary were systematically destroyed by Christian mobs along with the attached libraries and hospitals. Pagan books were targeted and burnt as well.

        The early Church Fathers made sure that the writings of the Christian Heretics were also burnt, as well as any subversive books like that lost monumental critique of Christianity by Celsus. We are just so lucky that a few of the many volumes produced were happily preserved like the findings at Nag Hammadi.

        Christian fanatics known as Iconoclasts in the 8th and 9th centuries, made an effort to destroy the wonderful Mosaics and other beautiful creations of the earlier Byzantine period. We are just so fortunate that the wonderful Ravenna in Northern Italy was spared due to its relative inaccessibility.

        During the upheavals of the Reformation, Christian groups on each side did their best to eliminate the artifacts books and the furnishings of the churches of the other. We well recall the destruction which successive royal regimes caused for a few years following Henry VIII. Many early translations of the Bible were torched through these years by both Protestant and Catholic authorities.
        I guess we can recall too the destruction caused by the Spanish to the civilizations of South America.

        Systematic attempts were made through many of the later centuries to destroy Jewish writings such as ancient copies of the Talmud and the Torah scrolls. This was still going on through the Hitler regime in Germany, where historical old Synagogues were torched as well.

        Of course there are many modern examples of Christian (and other) faiths having the most horrible destruction wreaked on their books, their churches and their temples. Heaven knows too, we’ve seen examples of Hindu temples being destroyed in India, of Islamic Mosques being targeted by fanatics all round the world.

        I have made no mention here either of the terrible slaughtering of the human faithful in each one of the cases listed above. I hope and pray that the Islamic State will soon be eliminated as such a destructive power. How grateful I am, that for the greater part, world Islamics have joined in condemning the vandalism.

        This time – NO cheers!
        Rian.

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      • Rian

        I remember some years visiting Pompeii and the amount of ancient brothels and pornographic images around the sites that I was allowed to visit. So much so that at the insistence of the Catholic Church, much of Pompeii is not open to regular tourists.

        Maybe if you’re trying to teach people a morality that does not encompass adultery in any form, it is not a good idea to have statues of people copulating right in your face! Hence the destruction of much pagan statues by the Christian Emperors, and previously by the Hebrews entering Canaan.

        Your comment about destruction of pagan literature is misleading and false. Much of the blatantly occult books written by pagans was destroyed. However much of the Greek and Roman Philosophical literature was not. Instead it was incorporated in the Roman Catholic religion.

        This was to have a detrimental effect on the development of science and technology. For much of the Dark Ages and Middle Ages, philosophy, science and technology were perceived through the lens of the pagan philosophies of the ancient Greek philosophers.

        Even today, Herodotous influences so much of Egyptology that the archeological evidence for Exodus, Joseph, Moses are put in the wrong time period.

        Maybe some things deserved to be destroyed.

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    • I also remember a text which said that where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am in the midst of them. You don’t necessarily need to be in a church building or cathedral to worship God.

      Having said that, the Bible does point out that God’s Church is an organised entity much like the organs of the body. The Bible also points out that God’s Church is the agency for the salvation of mankind on earth.

      But what this American phenomena is, is certainly not Christian. For example, how am I gonna practice love towards my neighbour, when I practice my religion in my head only?

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      • Interesting davinci,

        I notice that the only item in my list that you criticize is that destruction wrought by the Byzantine vandal monks upon the Temples of the Pagan World. So I take it that the rest of my list is quite accurate in your eyes.

        In all the references and records I’ve read of that period, there has not been a single mention of any obscene image or lascivious statuary that they destroyed. And I have no doubt that such would have been trumpeted loud and clear. No, the things that were pulled to pieces were literally the Temples, the statuary, and the other adornments in the Pagan sanctuaries, as well as in the sites of the great schools of learning. Decorative gold was torn off the surfaces and brought back to their headquarters. Often the pagan statues were taken back to Byzantium and triumphantly displayed there.

        Since these things were happening in the Byzantine period, when I gather according to you, that the purity of the pristine Christian Church was perverted anyway, I am a bit surprised that you attribute to these guys the Christian Puritanism needed to destroy images of copulation. No my friend, they were acting under the exact same motivation that the present vandals in Iraq are working from. I’ve not heard any suggestion that the ancient relics being destroyed in Iraq include any images that are at all lewd, and I’m sure those chaste and pure Isis fighters would have trumpeted the fact if they had been..

        One other thing there is that when in the early 400s, the last great teacher of the Schools of the Pagan world Hypatia, was horribly torn to death by a band of thuggish Christian monks, no-one could ever say that she carried any lewd or perverted reputation about her. And even the notorious Alexandrian Saint Cyril approved of her murder merely with the comment that she deserved to die, since as a ‘woman’, she actually presumed to teach men. Shock Horror!

        As for your enigmatic reference to the evil influence of Herodotus on Archaelogical research, – well, yes, you cheerfully offered mere opinion there. I suspect that you are quoting from authorities within your own or related Christian Sects, who are primarily out to defend their limited belief in Bible Inerrancy with desperate contentions about history.

        Hm, I just wonder, – perhaps Christian Millenarians like yourself don’t care if any of the ancient world is destroyed through vandalism or anything else, since before long it’s all going to be eliminated and renewed by your God anyway, just any time now? Same reason why lots of Fundamentalists refuse to worry about Climate Change etc I guess.

        Cheers, Rian.

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      • davinci,
        you suggest there that much of the literature that the Christians burnt in the old days was essentially of an occult nature. That word Occult simply means hidden or covered or even secret.

        Now I would remind you that when books and scrolls are destroyed by enthusiastic puritans, there is nothing left of the stuff left after to demonstrate that it was just what is described. Christianity just like most other groups have mislabeled such writings in order to excuse the censorship. Much of the Gnostic writing was described as Occult during the 3rd 4th and 5th centuries, when the church was doing its best to stamp it out, and indeed to wipe all memory of it from the face of the earth. The Nag Hammadi books have proven to be quite different from such descriptions.

        During the persecution of Christians by Rome during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Christians were accused of all sorts of terrible things, from Infanticide and Incest and cannibalism. This was largely due to the way the faithful kept their rites and their worship, as well as the Baptismal initiation of new members, quite secret and private. this sort of secrecy made the public suspicious. Labels were put onto the Christians that made them marked people.

        Recall the atrocities of both Catholic and Protestant communities for a few centuries when totally innocent persons were subjected to torture and execution after being conveniently labelled as witches. Just now, a particularly nasty community of Islamics in the Middle East is committing all sorts of atrocities; and our Prime Minister is labelling them as a ‘Death Cult’. However bad they may be, that title is not really accurate. But it makes great propaganda.

        I recall back perhaps in the 1940s, a prominent world class Musician named Sir Eugene Goosens was stopped by Customs and tossed out of Australia. It was claimed that he was bringing in to Australia pornographic material. This was enough to damn him and eventually to destroy his life and career. The stuff he was bringing in was actually not pornographic, but rather magical’wicca type equipment. And that would not have made such a splash in the public mind as the suggestion of sexually provocative publications that it was wrongly labelled for propaganda purposes.

        During the early Renaissance, a fanatical Monk named Savonarola preached violently against the Humanistic living and extravagent trappings of the Florentine public. During his time in which he became almost an ad hoc boss of the City, many bonfires were set in the town square in which citizens tossed their secular paintings, their fancy clothes, the women’s vanity items and etc. In his eyes, these items were diabolical, sexually lewd and degrading. How very much was lost of historical importance in that period. Almost the same as was destroyed in the terrible Cultural Revolution in China during our own day.

        In each of thse instances, the authorities did their level best to label the things they were purging as evil and against God or against the best interests of the State.

        davinci, if you are so much in favour of so-called Occult writings etc being burnt in those days, are you similarly in favour of similar purging and censorship today? More books, magazines and writings as well as artifacts in these areas, than were ever about in those ancient Pagan days. I just hope you never get to become some sort of ‘benevolent’ dictator in our society.

        Over to you, old mate,
        Cheers, Rian.

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      • Well said, Davinci.
        In as much as there is a need to rub minds with fellow believers, two or three is already enough.
        In the church, there is edification, for the purpose of reaching out to the world.
        A scripture says; “Let your light so shine before men that through your good works, men will give glory to your father in heaven”.
        Whether God is worshiped in a head or in a heart, but His sweet fragrance is felt and glory is given to Him, then it is worth it.
        Religion has set numerous unrealistic standards that have even reduced productivity and relevance in numerous regions of the world.
        I believe that Christ came to transform our spirits and renew our minds, so that we will exhibit characteristics of the kingdom, which is primarily characterised by Love.
        Today, many people wrongly measure righteousness by number of days present in a church building, length of time spent praying, number of guests invited to church, number of days spent fasting, and numerous more, to the detriment of sharing love and providing solutions.
        My point is that religion today keeps people locked in halls, teaching them to fish, but never giving them the room to go fishing.
        Somehow, logically minded people cannot fit in to such, especially when it starts getting exploitative as it gets in some cases.
        An adaptation strategy seems to create itself in the various forms of personal worship that now emerge…
        Lovely thoughts!

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      • Rian,

        There is a saying “if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull…t”.

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      • Rian,

        You whinge that Christians destroyed much heretical writings, art works, etc.

        You omit the fact that the Bible (in which Christ said “my kingdom is not of this world”) was either ignored, or was made inaccessible to common people to read for themselves. And so the bulldust started. Once the bulldust detector was removed from sight anything could happen and did happen (including some of the things you said happened).

        You failed to mention that separation between church and state is a relatively recent development in human history, and is of Christian origin. The Bible supports separation of church and state by such phrases as:
        – “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s”
        – “We ought to obey God rather than man”
        – “In the world but not of the world”
        Once again, after ignoring and removing the Bible/Bulldust detector, we have Christians that make a state religion which persecute and destroy opponents and their writings, such as the Iconoclasts did, such as the RC Church did with the Albigenses.

        You failed to mention that the Renaissance brought back an interest in Greek and Roman art, and literature. Once the association between the art and literature of ancient pagan societies was separated from the worship of pagan gods and all that it entailed, it was readily accepted by the Christian community. Once people began to disassociate images of nudity with pornography and adultery, Christianity did not have a problem with art works showing nudity.

        As for Herodotus’ influence on Egyptology, this is not Protestants making something up to support the inneracy of the Bible. Since Immanuel Velikowski wrote “Ages in Chaos”, archaeologist who have no affiliation with Protestantism have made remarks that the Chronology of Egyptian Pharaohs needs to be revised by some 300-400 years from the one that Herodotus suggests. Once this revision is made, the events portrayed in the Bible start corresponding with archaeological evidence. But this revision will not happen because too many professional reputations are at stake. So instead of admitting that Herodotus was wrong sometimes, and revising the chronologies of ancient Egypt, we have people that ignore the evidence before them, lest the Bible be proven right.

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      • Actually Rian,
        If you ever bothered to read the Bible instead of constantly ignoring it, you would have found that Paul the apostle designated to bring the gospel to gentiles never:
        – encouraged poofter bashing, despite being critical of the gay lifestyle.
        – never told the gentile Christians to go out and censor/burn occult books. We are told that they brought and burned these books of their own volition.
        – often spoke against idolatry but never encouraged the converts to burn down pagan altars, the way that the Muslims destroyed the Buddhist and now Assyrian artefacts.

        And no I don’t believe that you have accurately stated your case.

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      • ….”how am I gonna practice love towards my neighbour,”
        …or your neighbour’s dog?

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      • Rian,
        In the early 1950s, Eugene Goossens met Rosaleen Norton, the so-called “Witch of Kings Cross”. Norton was known as an artist of the grotesque and for her interest in the occult and erotica, which Goossens secretly shared. They conducted an intense affair, exchanging a number of passionate letters; although Goossens asked Norton to destroy all of them, she kept a bundle hidden behind a sofa.[

        In early 1956, Goossens visited Europe, unaware that Sydney police were already in possession of his letters to Norton and photographs of her occult activities, which had been stolen from her flat by Sydney Sun reporter Joe Morris, who had infiltrated her supposed “coven”. When Goossens returned to Australia on 9 March 1956, he was detained at Sydney Airport, following a tip-off by informants in London; his bags were searched by Customs officials, who found a large amount of what was then considered pornographic material, which included photographs, prints, books, a spool of film, some rubber masks, and sticks of incense.

        Although he was not immediately arrested or charged, Goossens naively agreed to attend a police interview a few days later, where he was confronted with photographs of Norton’s “ceremonies” and his letters. Faced with the evidence of his affair with Norton – which left him open to the serious charge of “scandalous conduct” – Goossens was forced to plead guilty to the pornography charges. He paid a fine of ₤100; more significantly, the scandal ruined his reputation and forced him to resign from his positions. He returned to England in disgrace.

        The scandal was the basis of a novel, Pagan (1990), by Inez Baranay; it also inspired a play, The Devil is a Woman, by Louis Nowra and an opera, Eugene & Roie, by Drew Crawford. The scandal is documented in the film The Fall of the House, directed by Geoff Burton.

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      • Hi Robert,
        Thanks for giving more of the Goosens details. I’m aware of the Rosaleen Norton story and have in my library the fascinating little book by Neville Drury, an interesting researcher in such matters, called Pan’s Daughter. This is an account of her life and paintings. I well recall seeing articles in the old Australasian Post about her, with creepy photos of her that made me nervous as a kid. She was of course in the long run, completely harmless..

        Cheers Rian.

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