I was curious to see what’s happened to churchgoing in this country since my youth, when I remember most people going to church—well, going religiously.
My leading theory was that churchgoing has decreased mightily since then. But I was surprised to see this chart:
Surprisingly (at least to me), it’s only Catholic churchgoing that’s declined since I was a girl. Protestant churches—and I know that covers a lot of ground—have held steady. However, the “steady” they’ve held at is a much lower level of churchgoing than Catholicism began with in mid-twentieth-century. What’s actually occurred is that Catholic churchgoing has declined from its earlier heights to almost exactly match the levels at which the Protestant churches started.
Is it that Catholicism has become more like Protestant churches—less distinctive? It certainly isn’t the child abuse scandals, because the trend started long before those were publicized and has been slow, steady, and relatively even.