Religious Practice in USA Dwindling But Many Still Pray


A new study by the General Social Survey found that many Americans are leaving institutionalized religion, but more are beginning to pray.

According to a recently released survey, fewer Americans than ever are attending church, or practicing religion, but more and more continue to pray. The 2014 General Social Survey shows that while religion affiliation and attending worship services are on the decline, Americans are beginning to pray more than ever.

Christian Smith, who leads the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society saysReligion is gradually becoming more personal, private, subjective in practice,” and “less public, institutional and shared.” He continued, “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.”

Religious Practice Affiliation Stats

The percentage of people describing themselves as religious, affiliating with a particular faith, and attending worship regularly are all at record lows. Jesuit priest James Martin saysPrayer’s durability owes to a more basic need. It’s intensely human. Even if you don’t like your local parish, you can’t get away from that human instinct to pray.”

The study shows that individuals are more likely to pray as they get older. However with lower affiliation rates, it is not clear whether or not younger adults will follow in this path.

However, some believe that such individual approaches to faith can be detrimental. Martin commented, “At some point, it becomes problematic. If it’s just me and God, anything I do can be seen as divinely ordained. When you exempt yourself from the community, you’re also exempting yourself from the community’s wisdom.”

Read more about the survey on the GSS website.


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