Longtime GetReligion readers know that I have always been interested in demographic questions and their impact on religious life in America and around the world. As the old saying goes, "Demographics are destiny." I have been known, from time to time, to add another "D" into that equation, producing something like, "Doctrine and demographics are destiny."
Say what? All I am saying is that you can often see connections between what people believe, in terms of doctrine, and the size and shape of their families and religious communities. Why do some parishes have more children (and priests) than others? Why is Orthodox Judaism growing in many cities while liberal forms of the faith are not?
These kinds of questions were at the heart of this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), which centered on a few statistics in a new poll commissioned by the national edition of The Deseret News. While one poll is never definitive, there were numbers in this one that stood out for me, raising questions I explored this week in my "On Religion" column for the Universal syndicate.
In particular, I was interested in what might be evidence of a change in one of the most stable religion statistics in the American marketplace. That led to this overture:
In the days after Sept. 11, 2001, many news reports claimed that stunned Americans were seeking solace in sanctuary pews and in private rites of faith.
But then the Gallup Poll came out, with its familiar question asking if people had recently attended worship services. The number who had, which has hovered between 38 percent and the low 40s for a generation or two, had risen to 47 percent -- a marginal increase. By mid-November, the Gallup number returned to 42 percent.