Saturday, January 10, 2015

Let's Try This From a Different Angle

I have looked at the NSYR data on teenagers and emerging adults losing their religion for information about why LDS youth and young adults level the Church. There is other literature that addresses that topic. Today's view is from Jeremy E. Uecker, Mark D. Regnerus, and Margaret L. Vaaler, "Losing My Religion: The Social Sources of Religious Decline in Early Adulthood," Social Forces 85/4 (2007): 1667-1692. This study, based on a different data set, looked at decline in religious service attendance, decline in importance of religion and disaffiliation from religion. Unfortunately, Latter-day Saints were put in the other category and so do not have separate statistics. It is interesting that unlike NSYR, the other religion category (which in this study included Latter-day Saints) had the lowest decline in religious service attendance, but the highest disaffiliation from religion (which is similar to the NSYR). After multivariate analysis the authors found the following reasons for religious decline among young adults:
  • Both cohabitation and frequent extramarital sex cause a decrease in church attendance and increase the likelihood of disaffiliation with a religion. (It is important to note that cohabitation no longer necessarily means setting up a separate household together.)

  • Taking risks is frequently associated with decrease in church attendance.

  • Not attending college is associated with both decrease in church attendance and increased likelihood of disaffiliation. The authors specifically deny that college promotes disaffiliation or decline in importance of religion, although they note that there is a decline in religious service attendance. They also note an exception: "Those who do major in these fields [those whose classes might challenge religious faith] -- the social sciences and the humanities -- are the most likely to diminish their religiosity" (p. 1669).

  • Using drugs (the study only looked at marijuana usage) is associated with both decrease in church attendance and increased likelihood of disaffiliation.

  • Alcohol use played less of a role in decreased religiosity.

  • Marriage is associated with an increase in church attendance and decreases likelihood of disaffiliation.

  • While a decline in church attendance is not associated with a decline in the importance of religion frequency of extramarital sex is.
Intellectual reasons did not figure in this study, but the behavioral patterns match those of the NSYR with the exception of alcohol use. The study did note this:
There is less of a difference between those who increased their drinking and those who did not, although respondents who drank more at Wave III than at Wave I diminish their religious service attendance at noticeably higher rates. (p. 1677.)
While not exactly pointing to sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll as reasons for losing one's religion, the study does seem to point to sex, drugs, and lack of college.