Why do so few Europeans go to church?

The distinguished sociologist of religion Peter Berger once promoted “the secularization thesis,” arguing that as societies become more modern, they become less religious.  But he has since said that thesis has been falsified, that the world is getting more religious than ever (and that modernity actually has contributed to the growth of religion).  The more interesting question, he says now, is why Europe has resisted that trend.

I am wondering now, though, after my speaking tour of Scandinavia, if Europe is as secular as it appears.

Nearly 80% of the population of Denmark belongs to the state church.  This requires paying a church tax of from .4% to 1.5% of one’s income, on top of an already crushing tax burden.  These members have been baptized and confirmed and they will be married and buried in the church, but only 3% of them go to church on any given Sunday.

Here are further statistics about the religious climate in Denmark:  According to a 2010 poll, 24% are atheists; 47% believe more vaguely in “some sort of spirit or life force”; and 28% believe in God.  Another poll found that 25% of Danes believe Jesus is the son of God and 18% believe He is the savior of the world.

So, yes, Denmark is a very secular country, with lots of non-believers (about a fourth) and liberal believers (about a half), but another fourth appears to confess Christ.  Perhaps a fifth are Gospel-believing Christians.  That’s actually not bad for a supposedly secular country.

But let’s put the statistics together.  If 80% of the country belong to the Church of Denmark, that must include lots of people who do not particularly believe in Christ, or even God.  And if only 3% of the population attends church regularly, that means that lots of Christians are not attending church either. [Read more...]

The problem with polls

Today’s politics rely a great deal on polls.  The problem is, election polling–which has had some spectacular failures lately–is faced with two huge problems:

(1) Cell phone usage has shot up, to the point that 47% of the population no longer has a land line.  And robo-calling of cell phone numbers is illegal.

(2)  The response rate to polls has plummeted.  In the 1970s, the percentage of people who responded to pollster’s surveys was 80%.  Today, it is 8%.

Thus, a recent national political poll conducted by NBC was based on just 236 responses! [Read more...]

A better way to wait in line?

Waiting in line, whether to buy tickets or to talk to a customer representative on your phone, wastes time.  The way it works now, it’s first-come, first served.   Those who camp out 24 hours before the ticket window opens will get their tickets, but they will have wasted 24 hours.  Researchers using game theory have found a more efficient–that is, less time-wasting–way of doing this.

Which do you think would be more efficient:  Serving people randomly, regardless of their place in line?  Or reversing the current practice and having last-come, first served?  Find out and find out why after the jump. [Read more...]

The happiest parents have four or more kids

An Australian family has found that the happiest parents are those with four or more children. [Read more...]

More and more experiments aren’t reproducible

Scientists are worried because more and more experiments are not reproducible.  A principle of the scientific method is that for an experiment to be valid, another scientist who performs it must get the same results.  In many cases today, that is not happening.  This is especially true in the social “sciences.” [Read more...]

Sex doesn’t sell after all

“Sex sells,” according to the conventional wisdom on Madison Avenue, a principle that has led advertisers to use sexual imagery to sell everything from automobiles to cleaning supplies.  But a new study shows that sex–or violence–doesn’t sell at all, that advertising with sexual or violent imagery tends to be ineffective.  That’s because the imagery distracts viewers so much that they don’t remember the actual product they are supposed to buy! [Read more...]