Social scientists have conducted more rigorous analyses of religious behavior. Rather than ask people how often they attend church, the better studies measure what people actually do. The results are surprising. Americans are hardly more religious than people living in other industrialized countries. Yet they consistently—and more or less uniquely—want others to believe they are more religious than they really are.
C. Kirk Hadaway, director of research at the Episcopal Church
and his colleagues compared actual attendance counts with church members' reports about their attendance in 18 Catholic dioceses across the country and Protestants in a rural Ohio county. They found that actual "church attendance rates for Protestants and Catholics are approximately one half" of what people reported.