According to new Gallup research, church attendance crept up slightly this year in the United States– but not everyone is buying the findings.
Slightly more than 43 percent of Americans told Gallup they attend church, synagogue or mosque weekly or almost every week, up slightly from 2009, and from about 42 percent in 2008.
A top expert on religion in America dismissed the numbers out of hand, but said there may be something to the trend.
Trinity College Professor Mark Silk says, “Those numbers are just wrong.”
He puts the percentage of Americans who actually attend weekly services somewhere in the mid-20s, pointing out that people tend to exaggerate when pollsters ask if they do something regarded as “good.”
“The problem with (the) Gallup (poll) is that self-reported behavior that is good, you tend to overestimate your behavior. When people are asked how often they vote, they tend to be, let’s say, optimistic,” he said, pointing out that there are good independent measures of both voting and religious attendance.
The Department of Labor’s annual survey of how Americans spend their time reported last week that Americans said they engaged in spiritual activity for about nine minutes a day in 2009, up from 8.4 minutes in 2008.
That’s a more reliable finding, Silk said, because people tend more honest when asked to account for their time than when they are asked about a specific “good activity.”
Trinity College’s American Religious Identification Survey found last year that the number of Americans calling themselves Christian had dropped to three out of four, while more than ever before were saying they had no religion.