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New Study Finds Christians Lie About Going To Church — A Lot

by David Badash on May 18, 2014

in News

Post image for New Study Finds Christians Lie About Going To Church — A Lot

43 Percent Acknowledge Rare Attendance In Online Surveys

A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute finds that overall, large numbers of America’s Christians are not being very truthful about how often they actually attend church. While the country has become far more secular in recent years, the nation’s Christians are more likely to admit they seldom or never attend church if they are completing an online poll, as opposed to talking with a pollster over the phone. And those discrepancies can be quite large.

“People appear especially unwilling to say that they ‘seldom or never’ go to worship services,” the New York Times reports. “In the phone interviews, only 30 percent described themselves that way, whereas in the online survey 43 percent acknowledged rare attendance. The effect continues even with the unaffiliated: In interviews, 73 percent say they seldom or never attend religious services, but online that number is 91 percent.”

“This points to a paradox in the country: On the one hand we have the rise of the unaffiliated, but at the same time the social expectation of church attendance is still alive and well, and we can see it as people inflate their reports of church attendance in live interviews,” said Robert P. Jones, the institute’s chief executive. “We have a long history of religious attendance being connected with all kinds of upright moral behavior, and we still see the vestiges of that.”

Those who self-identify as Catholic or unaffiliated have the highest discrepancy between online and telephone answers — both groups show an 18 point disparity.

chartThe top recommended reader’s comment on the Times article says:

I am 67 years old, and nothing has been more damaging in my life than organized religion. For example, my wife took me to meet her parents on Christmas Day when we were dating. Upon learning that I was a divorced man, her father threw me out of the house: so much for the kind ministrations of Catholicism.

It was no different in my own Mormon upbringing. As a boy I was taught that African-Americans were the “sons of Cain” and cursed by God with black skin. I was told that temple garments stop bullets, that Joseph Smith translated the Golden Plates by looking through rock crystals, and that women were not worthy to hold the priesthood – a doctrine of gender inequality which remains in place to this day.

Everything about organized religion says: “We are special, you are not.” If you can’t accept irrational nonsense you will have no standing within the major faiths, no matter how good a person you might otherwise be.

The worst thing is that adults indoctrinate children into these exclusionary behaviors at an early age, just as I was. The American dream of equality for everyone has no place in churches, temples or mosques, where the whole idea is to identify some people as more special than others.

Another reads:

This is just an example from my own life as to why I lied and pretended to go to church when I didn’t. In Texas, where I grew up, and now in Oklahoma, people ask all the time where you go to church. I’ve had complete strangers walk up to me while I’m walking for exercise in parks just to ask me where I go to church. If you answer, “nowhere,” they will pick at you and harass you. It was even like this when I was in elementary school in Texas. I just said I went to this place or that just to get them to leave me alone. Now, I won’t do it. I refuse to lie. But I have to realize the reaction they’ll have. Have to be strong when some stranger is telling you that you’re going to hell.

Image, top, by Vinoth Chandar via Flickr. Chart via NY Times

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SeanLiberty13 May 18, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Lying is a sin.

cftxp May 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Weird, I live in Texas and I've never been asked where I go to church since high school and I always tell people who take surveys (when I answer the phone) that I'm unaffiliated.

doug1408 May 19, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Well, we know they also lie about serving the public when applying for a business license.

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