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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Survey discovers religions are losing followers

Americans are adding religion to their shopping lists, according to a survey released last week.

The survey, which was conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, found that 28 percent of Americans have left their childhood religion for another religion or no religion at all. Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant churches have lost the most followers to other religions.

David Hackett, chairman of the UF Department of Religion, said the mentality that comes with living in America's market economy encourages people to "shop for religions."

This is reflected in the poll's finding that 16.1 percent of Americans declare themselves unaffiliated, Hackett said.

He said religion is supposed to critique society and act as a standard, but instead, religions are marketing themselves to society.

He also attributed affiliation changes to Americans' increased mobility. When people move, they encounter different backgrounds, which may inspire curiosity, he said.

The Rev. David Fuquay, pastor of University United Methodist Church, attributes the findings to the fact that people are looking for more substantial and relevant answers to their spiritual questions.

"I think the church doesn't have a very good answer for people who are searching," Fuquay said.

Though the size of his congregation has been decreasing for the past 12 years, he said the number of college students has increased.

"We let our students take the lead on how we worship," he said.

The Rev. John Gillespie, pastor of St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center, was not discouraged by the numbers in the poll.

The survey found that the Catholic Church has lost more followers as a result of affiliation changes than any other religion, but Gillespie said that despite this, the church is still growing.

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Rory Cartelli, a UF freshman who is Catholic, said since coming to college she attends church less frequently than she used to, but she tries to go when she has time.

Cartelli said people leave the church when they become less involved and start believing what society says about the church, rather than what the church's doctrines say.

"The church's view is actually really different than what people say it is," she said.

Gillespie said the Catholic Church may make small changes to keep with the times when necessary, but the church's doctrines will not change.

In comparison to the rest of the world, he said the numbers in the U.S. are not bad.

"We continue to be the most religious democracy," he said.

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