And even stranger, European Christians don't. The "attendance gap" is nearly zero in Europe. Their claimed attendance matches their actual attendance.
According to a new University of Michigan study, American church attendance runs around 35% to 45% if you simply ask people. But if you actually check on their church attendance, the truth is that only 26% of Americans attend church regularly. That's a HUGE difference.
Surprisingly, the actual rate of church attendance in America is almost identical to Europe. It's just that Americans lie – or at least fool themselves pretty badly – about how often they attend church.
So why do Americans exaggerate so much? And why don't their European brethren do the same? What is different in American culture? Do Americans want to go to church more and just don't have time? Do they feel they'll be ostracized unless they claim to attend church?
What uniquely American cultural force pushes Americans to exaggerate so wildly, and why doesn't that same force operate in Europe? I'm genuinely curious. I usually try to offer my sage opinion on just about anything, but this one has me baffled. Any opinions?
Other posts in this series:
- Is Christianity Dying? (December 2009)
- Is Christianity Dying? Interesting New Data (February 2010)
- Mushy Christians – More Evidence Christianity is Dying (April 2010)
- Christianity is Dying – The Story Behind Defection of Anne Rice (August 2010)
- Christianity Dying Faster than Expected? (October 2010)
- Is Christianity Dying? Who is that guy hanging on the plus sign? (November 2010)