Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Graph of religious switching

Here's a chart created by Michael Bell of InternetMonk. The top row represents people's religion as children, the bottom is their religion as adults. The lines between them represent switching. So, starting from the left, the red line up and down demonstrates the portion of people raised without religion and who have no religion as adults. The next line over, that goes to the green bar, are the individuals who switch from no religion to Catholicism. Note that it's pretty narrow suggesting that not many people raised without religion switch to Catholicism.

While Christians focus on loses out of Christianity into no religion, the reverse happens to, perhaps to a greater degree. It appears that a greater proportion of non-religous people become Evangelical than the reverse. In general, non-religion is a leaky bucket, losing a lot of its people to Christianity.

Also, there isn't much switching into Caholicism, but there sure is a lot out.

Other observations?


Patti said...

No-religion is a leaky bucket, but the number of losses from all the religious categories into no-religion looks like it far out-weighs the number who convert to Christianity in its various forms. No-religion doubles in size while all the other categories except Catholicism stay roughly the same with their additions pretty closely matching their losses...

Joshua said...

Yes, more are going into it than out of it, so it is growing... still, as a percentage, more go out of it than other groups.

The growth of the no religion group seems to have slowed down since 2000.

Bea said...

I wonder how this graph would vary in a European or Canadian context (I assume the graph represents American numbers). I would suspect that the leakage to No Religion (as well as the overall dominance of No Religion) would be much greater in those countries.

This graph is especially timely for me because of a debate I've been having at my blog with a reader who argues that teaching religious beliefs to one's children renders them less free to choose what to believe later in life.

eclecticchristian.com said...


I have not seen data that would assist me in creating Canadian or European graphs. (I am Canadian by the way.)

The Evangelical church in Canada in Canada, while proportionally smaller than that of the U.S., seems to be quite healthy and growing. I had always assumed (wrongly it seems) that the growth had come as a result of the mainline church.

In Canada there has been a huge rejection of the Catholic church from those raised Catholic. Many of those who have rejected it would still call themselves Catholic.

This of course is one of the underlying problems of the chart, it does not show the depth of commitment.

In Quebec, for example, the province that has the highest proportions of Catholics, 34.6% of co-habitating couples are not married. This would be completely at odds with the Catholic church, yet most of these would call themselves Catholic in any survey.

Mike Bell

Brad Wright said...

Good question, and I don't know the answer. There might be data available for some of the Euro countries, but I'd have to dig around for it. (And, I'm not up to making such a cool graph as Mike did).

Mike, it would be interesting to see a direct comparison of the U.S. and Canada, to see how the Evangelical church fares differently in each place.

Catholics switching out of the church seems a chronic problem in both countries, but I would imagine that Canada doesn't have the inflow of Catholic immigrants that we do, so the relevant size of their church might be shrinking like the Mainline church here.

Jay Livingston said...

@Bea: "teaching religiot us beliefs to one's children renders them less free to choose what to believe later in life."

If we assume that the no-religion people don't make much effort to teach their (non)beliefs to their children, the data here support that idea.

It's also interesting that the group that gains the most (in terms of percentage, as Patti noted) is the one that proselytizes the least.

Anyway, it's a nice chart. I think I saw something like this at MOMA.

Bea said...

It seems astonishing to me that parents of children raised in no religion will find that 50% of them migrate toward religious belief. I can't imagine that would be true in the more culturally secular parts of the world like Canada and Europe.