Religion Without Salvation
By now it has sunk in that, for all its secularization, the United States is perhaps the most religious country in the Western world. Recent confirmation of this comes from a poll showing that 41 percent of Americans, a remarkably high proportion, say that they have taken Jesus as their personal savior, an increase of six percent over 1991.
But there is something odd about this figure, because during the same decade regular church attendance, Bible reading, and participation in adult religion classes have declined by an at least equal percentage.
This is a problem of Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox. Catholics attend church in about the same proportion as Protestants, but they are far less likely to read the Bible or enroll in adult-education courses. On the other hand, Catholics remain less likely than Protestants to get divorced, and the highest divorce rates are found in what are ostensibly the most “born again” parts of the country. (My favorite statistic shows that in half the counties in Oklahoma there are more divorces than marriages!)
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James Hitchcock is Professor emeritus of History at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He and his late wife Helen have four daughters. His most recent book is the two-volume work, The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life (Princeton University Press, 2004). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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