Religion, Retention, and Why We Stay or Go

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Sometimes I try to figure out why I am so interested in religion and politics.

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Answer - Religion - Role - Years - Sense

The only answer that I can come up with is that religion played such a tremendous role in my formative years, that I am still trying to make sense of how that impacted the person I have become.

I was a kid who went to my Southern Baptist church three times a week, always volunteered to help paint or clean, was the first one signed up for summer camp, and spent most of my waking hours at the house of my youth pastor. I wore Christian t-shirt unironically and threw away my secular music and replaced with (usually inferior) Christian music. I was an all-in evangelical.

College - Water - Moment - Tradition - Mainline

Then, I went away to college and had a “this is water” moment. I didn’t jettison all the religious tradition I grew up with, but found that the mainline church is much better fit for me.

Is that transition from evangelicalism to mainline Protestant Christianity a typical religious path? I didn’t have any sense of that, but knew that I had some data that could answer that in the General Social Survey.

GSS - Respondents - Religion - Respondent - Protestant

The GSS asks respondents, “In what religion were you raised?” And if a respondent indicates that they were raised Protestant, then a second question is asked to determine which specific denomination they were raised in.

These two questions coupled with a question about respondent’s current religious affiliation allows me to sort Protestants into both mainline and evangelical traditions, alongside determining the movement of Catholics and those without a religious affiliation.

Retention - Retention - People - Tradition - Tradition

First, I wanted to start with retention. I am defining retention as people who were raised in a religious tradition and still affiliate with that tradition as an adult. Which traditions are leaky boats? Which...
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