The Ninth Commandment admonition against bearing “false witness” generally is regarded as a moral rule against lies of almost any sort.


There are exceptions, of course. Lying to the Nazis about the whereabouts of Anne Frank and her family was the moral thing to do. And vouchsafing for the existence of Santa Claus to your children is not considered a damnable offense.


But what if you willingly exaggerate your record of church attendance? That’s pretty bad, isn’t it? Granted, fibbing is excusable in some cases, but do such cases include your involvement in formal exercises of religious worship?


I raise these questions in light of THIS:


[C]ounting churchgoers has always been a bit tricky. Some congregations tend to over-report attendance, seeking to demonstrate vitality. Others are more scrupulous, especially in denominations where churches pay assessments based on size. And itís been evident for years that Americans tend to overstate their own religiosity: There is a persistent gap between the number of people who claim to go to worship services and the number who can actually be counted in pews.



The gap grows more striking as America becomes more secular. In recent years, poll after poll has found more Americans who do not identify with a religious tradition, and many denominations show evidence of decline. And yet, Americans continue to report high levels of belief and participation ó more than 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God or a universal spirit, and nearly 40 percent report weekly attendance at a worship service, numbers that have remained relatively unchanged for decades.


 


 

The Ninth Commandment admonition against bearing “false witness” generally is regarded as a moral rule against lies of almost any sort.

There are exceptions, of course. Lying to the Nazis about the whereabouts of Anne Frank and her family was the moral thing to do. And vouchsafing for the existence of Santa Claus to your children is not considered a damnable offense.

But what if you willingly exaggerate your record of church attendance? That’s pretty bad, isn’t it? Granted, fibbing is excusable in some cases, but do such cases include your involvement in formal exercises of religious worship?

I raise these questions in light of THIS:

[C]ounting churchgoers has always been a bit tricky. Some congregations tend to over-report attendance, seeking to demonstrate vitality. Others are more scrupulous, especially in denominations where churches pay assessments based on size. And itís been evident for years that Americans tend to overstate their own religiosity: There is a persistent gap between the number of people who claim to go to worship services and the number who can actually be counted in pews.

The gap grows more striking as America becomes more secular. In recent years, poll after poll has found more Americans who do not identify with a religious tradition, and many denominations show evidence of decline. And yet, Americans continue to report high levels of belief and participation ó more than 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God or a universal spirit, and nearly 40 percent report weekly attendance at a worship service, numbers that have remained relatively unchanged for decades.