Confidence in Religious Institutions at a 39-Year Low

Source: Christopher Burbach, "Are We Losing Faith in Religion?," Omaha World-Herald, 18 July 2012.

Gallup does a yearly survey called the "Confidence in Institutions" since 1973. One question is whether those surveyed had confidence in the church or organized religion. What exactly constitutes a church or an organized religion is not defined. The peak response was back in 1975 at 68%. It has been declining ever since. Last year it was at 48% and this year it is down to a new low of 44%.

"While organized religion sank, it fared better than many other institutions. Others, such as public schools, banks and television news hit all-tim lows. Only the military (75 percent), small business and the police commanded more reponses of 'a great deal' or 'quite a lot' of confidence. And many institutions inspired much less, with Congress pulling up the rear with 13 percent."

Gallup hasn't sought out a cause for the decline, only recording the fall. Some note that earlier declines followed years when famous television evangelists got involved in scandals, such as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart in the late 1980's. The recent decline could be caused by the sex scandals in the Roman Catholic church. "The survey did find that significantly fewer Catholics -- 46 percent -- expressed confidence in organized religion than did Protestants -- 56 percent." All others (not Protestant or Catholic) had only a 29 percent confidence in organized religion.