On March 13, 2009, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion column titled “God Will Provide — Unless the Government Gets There First” by W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. While some of Wilcox’ commentary centers around old news, he makes some intriguing claims about the role of marriage in society. Here is an excerpt:
Secularism seems to be on the march in America. This week, a new study from the Program on Public Values at Trinity College found that the number of Americans claiming no religion now stands at 15%, up from 8% in 1990 and 2% in 1962.
The secular tide appears to be running strongest among young Americans. Religious attendance among those 21 to 45 years old is at its lowest level in decades, according to Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow. Only 25% of young adults now attend services regularly, compared with about one-third in the early 1970s.
The most powerful force driving religious participation down is the nation’s recent retreat from marriage, Mr. Wuthnow notes. Nothing brings women and especially men into the pews like marriage and parenthood, as they seek out the religious, moral and social support provided by a congregation upon starting a family of their own. But because growing numbers of young adults are now postponing or avoiding marriage and childbearing, they are also much less likely to end up in church on any given Sunday. Mr. Wuthnow estimates that America’s houses of worship would have about six million more regularly attending young adults if today’s young men and women started families at the rate they did three decades ago.
What do you think about Wuthnow’s suggestion that marriage and church attendance are linked?
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