No Atheists in Financial Meltdowns

The NY Times has an interesting article, Bad Times Draw Bigger Crowds to Churches. The gist of the article is that Evangelical churches are seeing increased attendance due to the emotional and spiritual effects of insecure financial times.

Since September, pastors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions — deep empathy and quiet excitement — as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore:

Bad times are good for evangelical churches.

Catholic and mainline Protestant denominations have also seen some stirrings, but in lesser numbers.

A recent spot check of some large Roman Catholic parishes and mainline Protestant churches around the nation indicated attendance increases there, too. But they were nowhere near as striking as those reported by congregations describing themselves as evangelical....

Various explanations are offered, including this one I particularly liked: "'We have the greatest product on earth,' said the Rev. Steve Tomlinson, senior pastor of the Shelter Rock Church."

The article is interesting on its own terms, but I also found a reference to a recent economics study interesting:

A study last year may lend some credence to the legend. In “Praying for Recession: The Business Cycle and Protestant Religiosity in the United States,” David Beckworth, an assistant professor of economics at Texas State University, looked at long-established trend lines showing the growth of evangelical congregations and the decline of mainline churches and found a more telling detail: During each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004, the rate of growth in evangelical churches jumped by 50 percent. By comparison, mainline Protestant churches continued their decline during recessions, though a bit more slowly.


I wonder if the prosperity gospel folks have seen an increase.
Layman said…
I had a similar thought. Don't know the answer to that. I can see it cutting either way.
BK said…
First, this is consistent with the notion that I expressed in my blog entry about Christians and IQ. At that time, I suggested that the better correlation isn't intelligence and theism, but rather wealth and theism. Those who are most wealthy are least likely to recognize their need for God. This economic downturn has shaken the security of a large number of people.

Second, with respect to the prosperity Gospel thing, I recently read an article where these prosperity Gospel types were experiencing a crisis of faith because they bought houses and expensive cars believing that God wanted them to have these things ("God bestows his riches, all you need to do is claim them"), but the recent failure of the market has led them to question God (when they should be questioning the very unbiblical prosperity Gospel teachers).
"Name it and claim it!"

"Blab it and grab it!"
Lifeguard said…
I have always felt the "atheists in foxholes" argument doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and I'm not even sure what the point is.

Desperate situations-- be they financial or otherwise-- may well lead people to believe in god or hope that god exists, but so what?

Does a desperate situation make someone a more or less reliable witness? All this proves is that when someone feels at the bottom of their rope, then they will turn to the only thing they feel they might have left.

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