Not long ago many believed that the spread of science and education would cause religion to wither, but although churchgoing has diminished, Americans generally retain their religious affiliations. Church attendance in the U.S. is higher than in any European country except Ireland and Poland [see By the Numbers, July 1999].
Since at least the end of World War II, Protestantism has declined, reflecting a weakening of mainline denominations. A likely cause may be the lower fertility seen since the early 20th century, when women from these denominations became active in the family-planning movement. In comparison with evangelicals, who emphasize saving souls, mainline Protestants have been less active in recruiting new members. Despite the decline, members of the "Protestant establishment" churches--Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Quakers and Unitarians--continue to hold positions of power in business, government, white-collar professions and the arts far out of keeping with their numbers. Although their importance, as measured by listings in Who's Who, fell during the 20th century, in the early 1990s they still had more entries than Catholics and Jews combined.
This article was originally published with the title Religion in America.