Fig. 1

Let us pray, or not

By Lydialyle Gibson

Graphic by Allen Carroll

In the United States, unusually religious among industrialized nations, the “tilt of religious change” over the past 50 years has been secular, but “the pattern is complex and nuanced,” reports Tom W. Smith, PhD’80, director of the National Opinion Research Center. Pooling 1972–2006 survey results for an October study, he found that weekly church attendance depended somewhat on life-cycle shifts, dropping when young adults left home, resurging when they became parents, slipping as they edged closer to infirmity.

The church-attendance figures are part of a 346-page tome on global religious trends that begins: “Religious change around the world is a complex phenomenon. No simple description such as secularization, religious revival, or believing without belonging captures the complexity.” Currents and countercurrents mark every continent and country.

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