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Book Reveals Declining Church Attendances and Loss of Faith in Religious Leaders

A recently released book is revealing that Americans may not be as religious as they claim.

The book, "American Religion: Contemporary Trends" by Duke University professor of sociology, religion and divinity, Mark Chaves was released on Sunday and has analyzed various surveys and studies to determine that aspects of religious life in the U.S. have declined over the course of a generation.

Referencing the General Social Survey, conducted by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center and the National Congregations Study, directed by Chaves, the professor found that the most drastic change has been in American opinions of religious leaders.

Between 1973 and 2008 the number of Americans with "great confidence" in religious leaders dropped from 35 percent to less than 25 percent, the book details. Between 1991 and 2008, the number of Americans who felt religious leaders had no place in politics rose from 30 percent to 44 percent.

The General Social Survey has examined the changing attitudes and behavior in Americans since 1972 and the National Congregations Study looked at the views of the several different religious groups in the U.S including, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

"The American public has lost confidence in leaders of all sorts,” Chaves said. “But the loss of confidence in religious leaders has been more precipitous.”

Chaves notes the ongoing sex-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church as one of the main reasons for Americans' loss of faith in religious officials and religion as a whole.

Comparing the General Social Survey and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey, Chaves found that Americans greatly exaggerate their church attendance. Findings indicate that 35 to 40 percent of Americans claim to attend church regularly while only 25 percent actually do.

Both surveys aimed to track how Americans spend their time during the course of specific days.

Chaves has determined that the institution of mega churches has made it seem like the tradition of the church is enduring, when it has actually declined.

"A 2,000-person church is far more visible than 10, 200-person churches," Chaves says.

Despite declines, belief in God remains high, with 92 percent of Americans saying they believed in God. Though in the 1950s number of Americans who said they believed in God was at 99 percent.

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