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Is America's Religious Health on the Decline?


Increased secularism?

Considering charges of increased secularism, it's appropriate to ask: Is religion slowly dying in America?

As time goes on, research continues to trickle out surrounding how faith is faring in contemporary society. Now, a new study seems to indicate that the nation's religious health is on the decline.

On Saturday, the Hartford Institute for Religion Research released a report entitled, "A Decade of Change in American Congregations." In total, 11,077 Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations (120 denominations) were included in the research.

The study, which was written by David A. Roozen and which covers the past decade, found that, from 2000 until 2010, there were steep drops in both financial health and attendance at weekly church services.

When it comes to finances, 30 percent of survey participants claimed that their churches were in excellent fiscal health in 2000. But this proportion dropped to 14 percent in 2010. One bright side, though, was that 10 percent of the congregations represented in the study reported that their economic situation had begun to turn around at the time of the survey.

There were also fewer people attending churches (another potential cause of revenue decline). Interestingly, this pattern occurred across denominations. According to Roozen:

"Overall, median weekend worship attendance of your typical congregation dropped from 130 to 108 during the decade, according to the FACT surveys."

While these findings were certainly negative in nature, it is intriguing to note that congregations have increasingly been adopting more innovative worship and new media technologies to spread their messages. In fact, 41 percent of congregations that were surveyed reported using Facebook to reach out to their communities. The use of technology and innovation yielded positive results for houses of worships. CNN has more:

In the measured decade, churches, temples and synagogues told surveyors that congregations that were innovative and contemporary showed the highest amount of "high spiritual vitality."

Forty-seven percent of congregations that said their worship experience was "innovative and contemporary" reported high spiritual vitality, versus 17% that said their congregations were "neither innovative nor contemporary."

This data comes after a previous study by the American Sociological Association, which indicates that working-class Americans are abandoning church faster than their more educated counterparts.

Research on faith and religion in America continues to offer an intriguing look into emerging patterns, while assisting in the sociological understanding of the impact religion has on peoples' everyday lives.

(h/t CNN)

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