In-depth understanding of congregational affiliation requires a clear picture of the unaffiliated--those who are currently not active members of a congregation. Included among the unaffiliated are people who were once members and subsequently dropped out, and those who retain some formal membership in a congregation but are inactive and rarely if ever attend a worship service. Part Two elucidates the motivations behind the low levels of involvement of these church/synagogue dropouts and marginal members.
In Chapter 4, Dean R. Hoge, Benton Johnson, and Donald A. Luidens discuss the religious involvement of members of the baby boom generation (those born between the mid-1940s and the early 1960s). Their study of a sample of Presbyterian baby boomers provides valuable insights on the dropout phenomenon.
All of the individuals in the Hoge, Johnson, and Luidens sample were confirmed in the Presbyterian Church. As adults, however, only 29% are active members of the church. Others maintain a formal membership in the church but rarely attend; or they participate in services frequently but they have allowed their membership to lapse. Still others have switched religions or denominations and, although religiously active, are no longer considered a part of the Presbyterian Church. Fewer than 10% of the baby boomers studied are true dropouts--individuals who unequivocally left the church, do not belong, do not attend, and have little if any affinity for religious belief systems or organized religion.
Most importantly, the authors show that the unchurched are not nonbelievers. The majority hold respect for Christianity's inspiration, moral teachings, and power to form vital community life. At the same time, the unchurched are characterized by what Hoge, Johnson, and Luidens call "lay liberalism," a relativistic orientation which tolerates doctrinal differences and the right of individuals to choose what religion they will practice