Church attendance

Here’s an interesting graph from this month’s Foreign Policy. It show church attendance as a percentage of the population attending church at least once a week. As you can see Ireland is way out in front.


Do that many Irish people still go to Mass? I really didn’t think the figures were still that high. FP reads into the figures as following (Ireland was ranked third last in the CDI)

The CDI (Commitment to Development Index) measures whether rich states fulfill this commandment. Interesting enough, countries where fewer people go to church score higher in the index. Or, in other words, where there is more preaching, there is less practicing. Just 3 percent of Danes, who rank at the top of the CDI, attend church at least once a week, according to the World Values Survey, which tracks social and cultural changes worldwide. In second-place Netherlands, church attendance stands at 14 percent, while in third-ranked Sweden, a mere 7 percent of the population goes to church once a week. At the opposite extreme is Ireland, which ranks 18th out of 21 CDI countries, but where church attendance stands at 65 percent.

The source of this pattern may be where people put their faith—whether in government bodies or religious institutions. The Netherlands and Nordic nations are small and homogeneous, and they maintain small gaps between rich and poor domestically. As a result, citizens seem to place more trust in elected officials to represent their interests, and, in turn, have a more activist development agenda. They rank highly thanks in no small part to generous foreign aid programs—and an apparent faith in their government’s ability to do good.

6 thoughts on “Church attendance”

  1. I’m with Colman. The church attendence survey is notoriously problematic because there’s a risk that people will inflate their own piety when asked.

    Still, assuming that the attendence figures are accurate, I suppose it’s possible that you need a third dimension here: charitable contributions. Maybe the pious people give their cash and time to private charity rather than indirectly through taxation.

  2. I don’t find it surprising that church attendance is that high in Ireland still. However, there is less of a “mandatory” element to church attendance for Protestants than Catholics, which may explain why US church attendance is a good deal lower than Ireland’s. There are many parents who find themselves in church on a Sunday because it’s still part of the Catholic school phenomenon, especially in rural areas.

    I think the US is more religious.

  3. I had a look at the CDI web site, but I couldn’t find anything about what countries they considered to be “developing”. I was interested in whether Mexico was “developing” or not. If yes, I’d have thought that US investment in “developing countries” would have been more. Same goes for China, although I’m not sure the US investment in China is greater relative to the other 21 countries listed here. However, I’m sure the US invests more in Mexico than the other 20 combined.

  4. “Did they ask people if they went to church or did they count them at the door? You’d get two very different answers that way.”

    So not only do they not go to mass they’re lying bastards too? Straight to hell the lot of them.

  5. Last time I saw this stat it was at around 50% but much higher in rural areas. People love to make out that the US is driven by religion and ignore the obvious influence of religion here. I can’t even name a secular school in Cork.

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