January 4, 2010

In a Land of Waning Religion?

Justin Katz

Ted Nesi has culled the local data from a national survey concerning American religion:

Rhode Island residents are among the least religious in the country, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life in Washington.

Just 44 percent of Rhode Island and Connecticut residents surveyed by Pew said that religion is "very important in their lives." The two states ranked No. 42 out of 46 in their share of deeply religious people. (The center surveyed 482 people in the two states, which were combined because of their small sample sizes.)

One could layer all sorts of caveats over this sort of data. In a state in which religion isn't an overt and explicit part of quotidian interactions, for example, it may be that a survey respondent has to be even more devout in order to declare the importance of religion and expressions of certainty in the existence of God.

That said, there's a reason public statements of religiosity feel like missionary work around here. One could suggest that New Englanders just like to treat their faith as a private matter, but by any standards &151; religious, sociological, psychological — cordoned faith is vulnerable faith, especially as new generations get the impression that nobody really believes anything.

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I wonder if they used the word spirituality rather than religious if the results would have been different. Personally I'm not religious but am fortunate to have a strong spiritual connection to a higher power.

Posted by: michael at January 4, 2010 10:25 AM

A higher power?

What is that?


Posted by: Sol Venturi at January 4, 2010 11:04 AM

I don't talk about my religious beliefs because I learned the hard way long ago that religion is difficult to discuss with most people. But I consider myself to be religious, just private about it

Posted by: Lin C at January 4, 2010 11:33 AM


Posted by: michael at January 4, 2010 11:50 AM


A good point that I've seen addressed in other surveys. However, in this one, I don't think it would help. Here's more from the PBN article: "Rhode Island and Connecticut also ranked second from the bottom in belief in God, with just 57 percent of those surveyed expressing absolute certainty in God’s existence. New Hampshire and Vermont ranked last at 54 percent.

Only 30 percent of Rhode Island and Connecticut residents said they attended religious services at least once a week, tied with Massachusetts and Nevada for the eighth-lowest share. Alaska was lowest of all at 22 percent."

If you assume that belief in God (and I note that the survey language didn't distinguish between Creator and Redeemer) is a precondition for spirituality, you have to conclude that the survey's ranking of Rhode Island stands up to critical review (given the available data).

More interesting, I think, would be the reaction of RI clergy to these results, and whether those reactions differ across denominations or major groupings.

Posted by: John at January 4, 2010 2:45 PM


Which one?


Posted by: Sol Venturi at January 4, 2010 2:51 PM

SV--Why do you think you need a response? I quess only if you have many. Like the baseball gods or the tree gods or the sun gods.

Posted by: David S at January 4, 2010 5:33 PM


I know what I believe. I'm trying to find out what you believe by asking some simple questions.

Care to answer them?


Posted by: Sol Venturi at January 5, 2010 7:49 AM

And I will reply. It is none of your goddamn business. Sol. GOOD GOD! GOD DAMN! GODDAMNIT OHMAGOD!

Posted by: David S at January 5, 2010 7:13 PM

David S:

What did you do with the money your mother gave you for anger management therapy?


Posted by: Sol Venturi at January 5, 2010 9:25 PM
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