Monday, February 25, 2008

Religious Retention and Apostasy in America

The latest Pew Report on American religion reveals much about religious change in America.

The overall apostasy rate for Americans (defined as leaving their childhood religion) is over 25%, or to put it backwards, the overall retention rate is 75%.

Protestants remain solid, although their percentage of all Americans is slowly dropping over the decades. 80% of Protestants children are retained as Protestant adults (although not necessarily of the same denomination), and 81% marry another Protestant (63% marry within their specific Protestant denomination).

Baptists, who account for one-third of all Protestants and close to one-fifth of the total U.S. adult population, have a 60% denominational retention rate (staying Baptist), which is the highest among all Protestant groups. 83% of childhood Baptists remain some flavor of Protestant, also the highest percentage. Methodists had a retention (as Protestant) rate of 79%, Lutherans 78%, Presbyterian 76%, and Congregationalists 72%. On the other end of the Protestant spectrum, only 68% of childhood Episcopalians remained Protestant, with a full 20% of them becoming unaffiliated.

Catholics have a 32% apostasy rate (i.e. 68% retention), as 31% of all Americans were raised Catholic, but only 24% remain Catholic. High immigration levels of Hispanics have kept them at a stable level of the overall population. Surprisingly, half of all Catholics under 30 are Hispanic, and almost half of all Catholics under 40. 78% of Catholics marry another Catholic.

Just under 2% of all Americans identify as Mormon, around 4 million total. Calculating only conversions versus apostates, Mormons are losing numbers, with an apostasy rate of 30% (i.e. 70% retention).

The cultish nature of Mormonism is highlighted by the fact that they had the highest rate of in-group marriage, with over 84% of Mormons married a fellow Mormon. Mormons are the most likely white Americans to be married, at 71%. Mormons also have the most kids, with more than 20% of Mormons reporting three or more children living at home.

Jews make up 1.7% of Americans, about 3.8 million total, and over 70% of them are Reform or Conservative. Jews are the wealthiest religious group, with over 50% of the reporting an income over $100,000 per year. 69% of Jews marry another Jew. The Jewish retention rate is 76%.

For some reason, the Pew survey did not report the retention/apostasy rate of Muslims. However, the incredible-shrinking nature of American Islam is highlighted by the fact that there were actually more Buddhists than Muslims in this latest survey (0.7% versus 0.6%) and almost 3 times as many Jews. There are as many Eastern Orthodox Christians (Russian and Greek primarily) as there are Muslims.

This percentage of Muslims (0.6%) further validates my own calculations on the correct number [here and here] which put the total number of US Muslims in the 1 million range (0.6% of 225 million would be 1.35 million). However, Muslims are quite fertile, with 15% reporting 3 or more children at home, a number only topped only by the Mormons.

Hindus were highly likely to marry another Hindu (90%), but that has more to do with their status as a racially-distinct new-immigrant community (88% of Hindus are Asian and 90% were raised Hindu). The ethnic-identity element of Hinduism is also highlighted in their apostasy rate, a very low 16% (i.e. 84% retention rate). Interestingly, Hindus are also the most likely group to be married (78%).

The weak future of Buddhism in America is also highlighted by the Pew survey. Buddhists are the least likely to marry another Buddhist (only 45%), and the most likely to switch away from their childhood Buddhism (50% apostasy rate). Interestingly, only 22% leave Buddhism for another religion, while 28% convert to unaffiliated. Unlike Hinduism, 53% of all American Buddhists are white. Buddhism appears to be an experimental religion for most, especially for the previously unaffiliated, with 30% having joined from another religion and 12% converting from the previously unaffiliated (the highest such percentage in America).

Jehovah’s Witnesses are extremely demanding of their members, in terms of moral/behavioral requirements and prohibitions, and it shows in the apostasy rate: 63% of children raised as JWs leave the faith (33% of them convert to no religion at all/unaffiliated, only 30% going to another religion), which is the highest apostasy rate in America. Just under 1% of Americans are JWs.

The religiously unaffiliated, call them the religiously apathetic, number 12%. Only 7% report being raised unaffiliated. Over half of those raised unaffiliated eventually joined a religion.

Agnostics and atheists account for only 4% of American adults today.

Summary chart (retention rate in descending order)

Hindus 84%
Baptists 83%
Methodists 79%
Lutherans 78%
Presbyterian 76%
Jews 76%
Congregationalists 72%
Mormons 70%
Episcopalians 68%
Catholics 68%
Unaffiliated 58%
Buddhists 50%
Jehovah’s Witnesses 37%
Muslims ???

[Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which draws primarily on a new nationwide survey conducted from May 8 to Aug. 13, 2007, among a representative sample of more than 35,000 adults in the U.S., with additional over-samples of Eastern Orthodox Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.]

See source reports at:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why Did the Crusades Happen?

The short answer: a defense against relentless Muslim jihad attacks. [On the Koranic mandate for violent jihad, see here, here, and here. On the influence of Islamic polygamy, see here.]

The details:

The 463 years between the death of Muhammed in 632 AD, and the First Crusade in 1095, were extremely dangerous for Christian Europe.

Instead of peace there were unrelenting Islamic wars and incursions; Muslim invasions of Spain, Italy, Sicily and Sardinia; raids, seizures, looting of treasure, military occupations that lasted until Saracen forces were forcibly dislodged, sackings of Christian cities including Rome, and desecrations of Christian shrines.

And be it noted: all this went on for 463 years before any Christian Crusade in response to these murderous provocations took place.

Sixteen years after the death of Muhammed, in 648 AD, Cyprus was overrun. Rhodes fell in 653, and by 698 AD the whole of North Africa was lost. In 711 Muslims from Tangier crossed into Spain, set their sights on France, and by 720 AD Narbonne had fallen. Bordeaux was stormed and its churches burnt in 732. Only the resistance at Poitiers of Charles Martel in 732 saved Europe from occupation, and arrested the Muslim tide.

From 800 on, incursions into Italy began. In 846 a Saracen force of 10,000 landed in Ostia, assaulted Rome, and sacked and desecrated the Basilicas of St Peter and St Paul. In 859 they seized the whole of Sicily. After capturing a fortress near Anzio, Muslim forces “plundered the surrounding countryside for forty years”.

In southern France at the end of the ninth century they held a base near Toulon from which they ravaged both Provence and Northern Italy, and controlled the passes over the Alps, robbing and murdering pilgrims on their way to Rome. Genoa was attacked in 934 and taken in 935. In 1015 Sardinia was taken, occupied, and held by Muslim forces until 1050.

In 1076 the Seljuk Turkish capture of Jerusalem finally exhausted the patience of Islam’s victims in Christian Europe.

Only then were concerted moves begun to drive back the infidel, launch the First Crusade, and retake Jerusalem.

Quoted from Roger Sandall, full article here