22 Comments

Good information. This is a group I'm curious to know more about as well.

On your chart that looks at weekly minus seldom/never -- it seems to me that showing the ratio of weeklies:seldom/nevers is also informative.

Eyeballing the ratio, it seems to average out around to 2:1, but some states stand out as having a low ratio (i.e. a relatively high proportion of seldom/nevers among their evangelicals) while being unremarkable in your chart. E.g. WV, FL, KY. I think UT has the highest ratio (which makes sense) -- if you're an evangelical there, you're not a cultural one.

If I could draw out one single trend while just eyeballing it, it's that, if we exclude the states with very few Evangelicals in the first place, low-to-negative population growth states tend to have more cultural Evangelicals than high-growth states.

E.g., TX, GA, SC, NC are all good population growth states, and their ratios are all around 2:1 or better.

Low population growth states like WV, OH, KY, MI, tend to have low ratios.

Exceptions to the trend that stand out: FL and MS.

I'll even propose a mechanism: more dynamic pastors tend to end up in faster-growing places. High-growth states tend to have more new, fast-growing non-denominational churches, which bring more marginal attenders in the door. Low-growth states have more old, small denominational churches that are generally not successful at this.

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I think some very important metrics missing in these debates are extrinsic and intrinsic religiosity. Growing up in an evangelical church what struck me is the amount of kids who came to church almost weekly but didn't act like it. It was like it was just a cultural and social event for a lot of teenagers and their parents probably often just made them come. I think the intrinsic vs. extrinsic religiosity distinction in psychology captures what you are looking for more accurately for that reason. If you're not familiar Wikipedia has a page on it.

People with intrinsic religiosity tend to have the benefits of religiosity but to a much better extent and tend to better live out their religion. Extrinsically religious people are actually worse off than secular people on average. Inspiring Philosophy goes over this evidence on his YouTube channel and if you're curious you can search for it on there.

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Thank you for posting your code. I didn't look at it, but I'm impressed. That should be standard practice. It's becoming so among economics professors, but wasn't 15 years ago. I've never seen it in a magazine before!

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One statistic I am quite curious about would be how many Evangelicals are participating in "nontraditional" gatherings. I.e. house churches, worship gatherings, simple church ... there are far too many terms to begin listing them all.

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“It's sort of amazing that a certain segment of the population fears the rise of a theocracy from this group of Americans, despite being only 8% of the population.”

I mean, there’s a Christian Nationalist who is two heartbeats away from the Presidency who doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state. Hard not to be worried about it, in my opinion.

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My Jewish lenses are really a bit bifocal on this. First, if church affiliation among evangelicals has become a political intersection with the Republican ballot at the expense of the Savior, where did the people who still put Jesus as their primary focus go? People can reject the institution but still retain the ideology. My Jewish version of this phenomenon comes in the form of attrition from Conservative synagogues of people raised as Conservative Jews. Whether they drift to Reform, Orthodox, or just disaffilate, their religious behavior remains that of Conservative Jews with kind of a loose but not absent adherence to Sabbath and dietary laws, retention of core rituals like Seder and circumcision, and participation in Jewish institutions that cross denominations. I would expect that evangelicals who conclude that their church is no longer about Jesus but they still are would continue to live that way and possibly vote that way.

The other phenomenon is decline in attendance. My Bar Mitzvah congregation closed, as did one I attended as a medical resident. So do churches. Yet their religious affiliates are strong. Federations raise mucho dinero. For the Catholics, nobody attends mass but the Jesuit colleges thrive and the Catholic Hospitals take their mission very seriously. For the evangelicals, church attendance may be down but their pastors still dictate a political agenda to be fulfilled. These observations make me wonder how good church attendance is as a prime metric for either religious belief or behavior. It may not be.

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Just in case I didn't mention it in the other note...didn't see your comments as insensitive...just as this is how it is comments.

E. Beal

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MUCH THANKS for this inciteful response to my posting. Also, I have been told by people who "know these things" that the reason for the move of over 300 families to the area was the availability of schools, one of which, btw, I taught at years ago: Hebrew Academy for Girls...it was conservative, but not ultra conservative. Now it's ultra....sigh and I'd be an abomination there today....mom Jewish (and I was, mostly raised J, dad not.

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I'm not sure about what conclusions can be drawn from this data. From a margin of error standpoint, about all I see here is that 10% plus or minus has moved from the right side of the graph (weekly or weekly+ attendance) to the left side (never or seldom attends). That is consistent with the rise of the so-called "nones."

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Jan 30·edited Feb 2

One thing that leaps out to me is what an outlier South Dakota is (re being evangelical or cultural evangelical) compared to any state other than a few Deep South states. There's nothing obvious, at least to me, in its demographic history that would explain that. The fraction of ELCA members is somewhat highly in ND than in SD, but then more broadly SD is somewhat more ethnically/racially and religiously diverse (more Catholics, for example). Not by enough to explain the large number of evangelicals.

Can anyone explain or at least offer a guess?

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Good piece. Two things: 1) in your description of the “weekly Vs never” bar chart, you say that you’re subtracting the former from the latter. That should yield negative numbers, so I think the sentence is backwards. 2) based on a rudimentary analysis I did a few years ago, I’d expect minimal difference on hot button political issues (immigration, crime, “the woke”

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