Even the Unaffiliated Pray in America? Why?

A Pew Research Center study was done in 2014 in which Americans were interviewed to find statistics about how many people pray and how their religious affiliation or sex may be related to the amount that they pray. One of their findings is represented in this image:

FT_14.04.30_DayOfPrayer.jpg

Other statistics that they found were that:

  1. 21% said that they pray weekly
  2. 23% said that they seldom or never pray
  3. Among those religiously unaffiliated 20% said they pray everyday
  4. Americans 65 and older were more likely to say they pray everyday than Americans 30 or younger (65% vs. 41%).
  5. 45% of Americans and 55% of Christians said that they relied a lot on prayer and personal religious reflection when making major life decisions.
  6. 63% of Christians in America say that praying everyday is an important part of their Christian identity.

Praying everyday can be very time consuming for some people, or very simple and quick for others. Either way, praying everyday is one of the most common ways in which people show their commitment to a religion or deity that they believe in (other than church). The statistic that 55% of Americans in 2014 said that they pray everyday has some issues. Just because 55% of Americans said that they prayed everyday, it doesn’t necessarily mean that only 55% of American pray since many people only pray once a week. This statistic is supported by the 21% of people who said that they pray weekly. However, only 23% of Americans said that they never pray. This can be considered a surprisingly small or large statistic. It’s small since the unaffiliated population in America has been growing lots recently, and thinking that only 23% of people don’t pray doesn’t represent that growing population well. However it can be considered large percentage since it is near 25%, meaning that about 1 out of 4 Americans didn’t pray in 2014. However way you chose to look at it, these statistics definitely have significance. Be careful though, since these statistics are many years old and may not be an accurate representation of the current population.

Once the statistics from 3-7 are examined, some conclusions and realizations can start to be made. The idea that 20% of those Americans who said they were unaffiliated also said that they pray everyday is shocking and could be considered scary. This statistic raises many simple questions such as, “Why do they pray?”, and other more complex questions like, “Should religiously unaffiliated people be praying or not?”. Why they pray was not asked in the interview, but considering why many unaffiliated people like myself occasionally pray, it is out of kindness for others who do pray, perhaps before a meal for example. Another reason for why they pray is because they are children who are agnostic and their parents take them to church so they don’t have much choice. Either way, these reasons can be interpreted with the follow-up question, “Is this reason OK?”. The answer to this question is more philosophical and will be answered differently based on their religious standing. Those who are unaffiliated might say that this is unfair, whereas people who are religious may say these reasons are perfectly acceptable. There is no right answer to the philosophical follow-up question, that decision is up to you.

Statistic #4 says that Americans 65 and older were more likely to say they pray everyday than Americans 30 or younger (65% vs. 41%). This statistic could support the hypothesis that younger people tend to have less confident beliefs since it a record displaying how less of them pray, or act in religious activities. However there are other factors concerning old and young age which could explain these varying statistics. People above the age of 65 may pray more since they are closer to reaching the afterlife and are trying to promote their relationship with their god (if they believe in an afterlife). However, they may also pray more since they have more time than people under the age of 30. People usually retire at the age of 65 or older, and that means that they generally have a lot more time to pray, which can be time-consuming. People 30 or younger have lots of new things that they have to worry about, such as school, college, getting a job, and potentially even purchasing a house. All of these activities are often stressful and take lots of time, leaving less time for praying compared to the time a retired person has.

Statistic #5 states that 45% of Americans and 55% of Christians said that they relied a lot on prayer and personal religious reflection when making major life decisions.  These statistics are interesting since they both are around 50 percent but the 10% difference still is observable. The fact that in 2014, 45% of all Americans said they relied on prayer is a minority of people. This is shocking since it suggests that American’s praying doesn’t really affect the way the majority acted, even though it’s influential to lots of people. Although 45% may not be a huge percentage it should be enough to not justify talking about prayer poorly in public spaces. The statistic that 55% of Christians said they rely on prayer a lot is very reasonable. Most Christians pray for a reason, usually to connect with god, a relationship that a lot of Christians value, to the point where it can change the way they act. However, Christianity is a religion with a wide range of intensity of belief making it understandable how 45% of Christians don’t consider prayer when making real-life decisions.

Statistic #6 states that 63% of Christians in America say that praying everyday is an important part of their Christian identity. This is very understandable since most Christians consciously prayer, knowing that they are doing an act important to their god and religion. Comparing this statistic to #5 is interesting since 63% is slightly higher than 55%. This means that more Christians believe that praying everyday is an important part to their Christian identity than they believe it affects their life decisions. Although this is interesting, it’s not very surprising and is easily understood by the fact that most Christians are loyal to their religious faith, and care about their Christian identity (standpoint in church) more than their application of religion to life changing decisions.

Source of 2014 Study: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/05/04/5-facts-about-prayer/

 

 

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