Religion in Secular Society: A Sociological Comment

By Bryan R. Wilson | Go to book overview

PART II

VI
RELIGION IN AMERICA: A CONTRASTING PATTERN

THE evidence of a process of secularization in Europe is clearly established. In the United States we are presented with figures of a very different kind. Instead of a decline in Church memberships, there has been a steady increase over the past sixty years; instead of diminishing attendance at Church services we find rates of attendance which are far higher than those prevailing in most European countries, particularly in industrial European countries, and this in spite of the predominance of Protestants in the United States. Protestant countries in Europe have shown higher dispositions to secularization than Catholic countries.

The statistics available indicate that religious memberships have increased rapidly in America -- more rapidly than population growth during the course of the twentieth century. Thus in 1926 only 27 per cent of the population was in membership in Protestant Churches, and 16 per cent in Roman Catholic Churches. By 1958, 35 per cent were claimed as members in Protestant denominations and 22.8 per cent were claimed as Catholics. (Of all those who were in membership with a church, 56 per cent were Protestants and 36 per cent Catholics in 1958.) Whereas in 1880 only 20 per cent of the population had Church membership, in 1962 the

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