How Catholics think, act

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This got overlooked last week in the release of the latest Pew Forum statistics on the religious makeup of Americans in the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey, Part II, which can be found here.

The Rev. Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Institute at Georgetown University, highlighted some areas where Catholics differ from national trends. They are:
 
1. Catholics are more likely to believe in heaven (82 percent vs. 74 percent) than the nation as a whole but are just as likely to believe in hell (60 percent vs. 59 percent).
 
2. Catholics also are more likely to believe in evolution (58 percent vs. 48 percent for the nation).
 
3. Catholics are more likely to be members of a congregation (67 percent vs. 61 percent) than the nation as a whole, but their participation in congregational activities such as choir, volunteer work, work with children or social activities tends to be lower (31 percent vs. 37 percent). This may be due partially to the fact that Catholic congregations tend to be larger.
 
4. Catholics still read the Scriptures less than typical Americans. Only 21 percent of Catholics say they read the Scriptures daily compared with 35 percent of the nation. Fifty-seven percent of Catholics say they seldom or never read the Scriptures, compared with 45 percent of the nation.
 
5. Likewise, only 29 percent of Catholics say they participate in prayer groups or other religious activities at least once a month, compared with 40% for the nation.
 
6. Sixty-two percent of Catholics say they seldom or never share their faith with others, compared with 47 percent for the nation.
 
7. Only 36 percent of Catholics think their church should “preserve its traditions and practices,” while 57 percent think it should “adjust to new circumstances” or “adopt modern beliefs and practices.” For the nation, the numbers are 44 percent and 47 percent, respectively..
 
8. Catholics are less likely to think there is a conflict between religion and modern society than the nation (34 percent vs. 40 percent).
 
9. When given a series of choices, Catholics are less likely to say their religion is what most influences their thinking about government and public affairs (9 percent vs. 14 percent) than the nation as a whole.
 
10. Catholics, like all Americans, believe that “good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace” but by a slightly greater margin (64 percent vs. 59 percent).
 
This survey shows a group that is more malleable in its religiosity, more secularized and less inclined to vote according to church tenets. There’s been a lot of debate lately as to whether a “Catholic vote” truly exists anymore as many of its adherents are indistinguishable from the general culture.

— Julia Duin, assistant national editor/religion, The Washington Times

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About the Author
Julia Duin

Julia Duin

Julia Duin is the Times' religion editor. She has a master's degree in religion from Trinity School for Ministry (an Episcopal seminary) and has covered the beat for three decades. Before coming to The Washington Times, she worked for five newspapers, including a stint as a religion writer for the Houston Chronicle and a year as city editor at the ...

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