Religious dropouts

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Lovejoy.jpegIn today’s release of the follow-up to its 2007 Landscape Survey, Pew offers an answer to the intriguing question: Which major Christian tradition is most likely to have its members drop out of religion. (Pew calls these folks “unaffiliated,” we at ARIS call them Nones–I won’t argue the point here.) The answer, in the immortal words of the Rev. Lovejoy, is that they are all, in this regard, pretty much the same.

Pew asked a sample of its unaffiliateds what their childhood religion was and the answers were 27 percent Catholic, 22 percent Evangelical, and 17 percent Mainline Protestant. Pew’s numbers for the strength of those groups were, respectively, 24 percent, 26 percent, and 18 percent–which is to say, each contributed roughly its share of the U.S. population to the dropout pool.

As usual with Pew, there’s a tendency to give the Catholics the needle. In the Executive Summary, the first table has a “Raised Catholic, now Protestant” line but no “Raised Protestant, now Catholic.” Bury down, and you do discover that yes, Virginia, some American Protestants do travel to Rome. But we don’t like to talk about them in polite company.