The majority of Americans still believes in God or a “universal spirit,” reflecting consistency in the country’s religious beliefs, according to the latest Gallup Index of Leading Religious Indicators.
With a combination of eight key religious beliefs and practices, the index accurately monitors the strength of organized religion in America, but weakly assesses the depth of religious faith.
The key factors of the index are: belief in God, religious preference, church membership and attendance, importance of religion in life, use of religion in solving life’s problems, high confidence in organized religion, and high rating of the ethical standards of clergy.
Based on the data obtained last year, the nation’s religious index remains “on a relatively high level, but is far below the figures recorded in the 1950s and early 1960s” when Americans were most religious and the index peaked at 746 points out of 1,000.
The latest index results show more than half of the American population consider themselves religious–the same as in 1999. The index remains at 673 points–that is 24 points higher than its lowest mark, which was recorded in 1993, according to the Gallup news service.
Among rarely changing factors are church membership, weekly worship attendance and religious preference.
Religion is very important for 59 percent of those interviewed, while only 44 percent reported attending church in the last seven days. These numbers remained steady over the last couple of years.
The variables include confidence in organized religion, which has dropped in the wake of scandals in the late 1980s, and confidence in the ethics of clergy, which was recorded at 67 percent in 1985 and dropped to 53 percent in 1993.
Last year’s results show that 56 percent have high confidence in organized religion, and almost 60 percent give high ratings to ethical standards of clergy.
Gallup interviewed 5,381 people, with a varying number of people surveyed for each of the index’s eight categories.
Alex Smirnov is BCE’s research associate.