Americans’ confidence in religious institutions has hit an all-time low, with only 44 percent expressing a “great deal” of confidence in organized religion, according to a new Gallup survey.
This follows a downward trend since the 1970s, when 68 percent of Americans had a high degree of confidence.
Gallup cites two big blows to confidence in organized religion: 1980s scandals involving televangelists like Jim Bakker and the Catholic sex abuse scandal in the 2000s.
Perhaps as an outgrowth of the abuse scandal, Catholics lag far behind Protestants in their confidence in the church, by a margin of 10 percentage points.
But the scandals of recent decades, and the ensuing lack of confidence in organized religion, are not necessarily affecting the importance of religion in peoples’ lives, Gallup finds.
“While various sex abuse scandals involving U.S. clerics have likely played a role in Americans’ growing skepticism about the church and organized religion, the decline in confidence does not necessarily indicate a decline in Americans’ personal attachment to religion,” writes Lydia Saad of Gallup. “The percentage of Americans saying religion is very important in their lives has held fairly steady since the mid-1970s, after dropping sharply from 1952 levels.”
It’s also worth noting that organized religion is far from the only institution in which Americans are losing confidence. Americans also are souring on schools, banks and television news, according to Gallup’s survey.
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