The new “Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S.” survey released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life yesterday is getting a lot of coverage in the mainstream and religious press. The survey looks mostly at Catholic and Protestant “fluidity of religious affiliation in the U.S. and describes in detail the patterns and reasons for change.”
A good place to start on this issue is Terry Mattingly’s post “Ch-ch-ch-changes in pews (saith Pew)” at GetReligion.org, which looks at how the press covers faith. Terry, an advisor to AOI, closes with this observation:
… let me note one other issue that may be hidden down in this Pew Forum research (and I intend to ask about it).
Anyone who works in the wider world of modern religion knows about the so-called 80-20 rule. This states that about 80 percent of the work, worship and giving is done by about 20 percent of the membership, the most dedicated members who have the strongest ties to their particular faith and to the content of its doctrine.
What happens when these people convert from one faith to another? What are the doctrinal fuses that must be lit to drive a devout believer — say a clergyperson — from Canterbury to Rome, from Nashville to Geneva, from Jerusalem to Athens? I know, from experience (my Orthodox parish is about 90 percent converts), that this is a radically [different] matter than making a church switch due to marriage or a change in zip code.
Alas, how do you put that kind of human blood, sweat and tears into a poll questionnaire?