No Surprise Here: Confidence in Organized Religion at Low Point

Gallup recently released its results of the annual “confidence in institutions” poll. “The church or organized religion” hit an all-time low, with 44% of respondents saying that they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in “the church or organized religion.”

That organized religion has hit an historic low doesn’t surprise me. Actually, I’m a bit surprised that religion does as well as it does in this survey. It does better than “the medical system” (41%), the presidency (37%), the U.S. Supreme Court (37%), public schools (29%), organized labor (21%), banks (21%), big business (21%), and Congress (13%). The only institutions that do better than organized religion are “the military” (75%), small business (63%), and the police (56%).

Protestants continue to have more confidence in organized religion than Catholics (56% to 46%). I would imagine that this has mainly to do with the ongoing sex abuse cases that plague the Catholic church in the U.S.

Those of us who care about the church should be aware of and concerned about the lagging confidence identified by the Gallup organization. But it would be foolhardy to engage in some sort of PR campaign to improve the church’s reputation. Rather, we need to live out the authentic Gospel in today’s culture with integrity and relevance.

  • http://thehighcalling.org/ Marcus Goodyear

    Based on those numbers, I think our society has a confidence problem in general.

  • Evan

    I think as with many polls that the wording is problematic. How one defines “the church” will impact their answer: is it the Church, meaning “the corporate body of all Christians” or “the Catholic denomination”? Further, my confidence in “organized religion” might not be the same as my confidence in my own church/denomination. “Organized religion” would include all sorts of folks I might not have much confidence in. Phrased as “the church OR organized religion” raises even more variables.

    More importantly, though, the very last line of the article says this: “The percentage of Americans saying religion is very important in their lives has held fairly steady since the mid-1970s, after dropping sharply from 1952 levels.” (Ah, yes, the Evil Fifties, so hated by the elites for the detested “Ozzie and Harriet families” and all the rest.) Still, the meaning of “religion in your own life” is a more sharply-focused meaning and apparently is not affected by all the scandals the article cites.

    Of course, I would guess that confidence in “broadcast news anchors” may have taken a decline or two since the Fifties as well, but well, that is just not newsworthy.

    My own confidence in “polling organizations” has taken a pretty big hit since I started looking at the rampant oversampling of groups likely to answer the way they want and the way questions are phrased. Do you have confidence that “Christians have finally stopped beating their wives”? Ah ha!


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