Magazine article USA TODAY

World Interest in Life's Meaning and Purpose

Magazine article USA TODAY

World Interest in Life's Meaning and Purpose

Article excerpt

Attendance at religious services is declining in the U.S. and many other industrialized nations, according to a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, study. Nevertheless, 46% of Americans surveyed say that they often think about the meaning and purpose of life, and fully half rate the importance of God in their lives as "10" on a 10-point scale.

"Although church attendance is declining in nearly all advanced industrial societies, spiritual concerns more broadly defined are not," notes Ronald F. Inglehart, a political scientist in the university's Institute for Social Research. "In fact, in most industrial societies, a growing share of the population is spending time thinking about the meaning and purpose of life."

Among the 20 advanced industrial democracies surveyed, 16 have declining rates of church attendance. France and Ireland have remained the same, while Northern Ireland and Great Britain show modest increases. In the U.S., which has by far the highest rate of churchgoing among industrialized nations, adults attending religious services at least once a month declined from 60% in 1981 to 55%.

Among ex-communist societies, the pattern is quite different. Five of the seven nations surveyed--Hungary, Latvia, Bulgaria, Belarus, and Russia--have rising percentages of church attendance. In developing nations, the pattern is mixed, with roughly equal numbers of countries showing rising and falling rates of church attendance.

Concern for the meaning and purpose of life became stronger in most advanced industrial societies, Inglehart and sociologist Wayne E. …

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