Beliefnet News

Beliefnet News

Study: Americans More Loyal to Charmin or Colgate Than Church

Americans are more loyal to their toothpaste or toilet paper than to their religious denomination, making consumers more choosy about Charmin or Colgate than they are about church, according to a new survey.
According to a Phoenix-based research firm, 16 percent of Protestants say they would consider only one denomination, while 22 percent of them would use only one brand of toothpaste and 19 percent would use just one brand of bathroom tissue.
Experts say the findings may be more telling about Americans’ views of the plethora of Protestant groups than how they choose between Quilted Northern and, say, Cottonelle.
“When you have a whole bunch of different brands out there and not a lot of differentiation among some of them — and not a lot of knowledge about them — the denominational world is facing the same problem as many other brands,” said Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, which conducted the survey.
Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, said at first blush the findings may indicate that “the United States worships at the church of consumption,” but thinks there’s more to the numbers than that.
“When you actually think about it for more than 10 seconds, none of this is all that surprising and I don’t think it’s actually bad,”
Thompson said.
He said the statistics demonstrate that some of the age-old rivalries between Protestant denominations have simply dissolved.
“Those distinctions, which seemed so important as the various Protestant churches were identifying and evolving … are really not that important to the average churchgoer in the United States,” Thompson said.
He pointed to himself as Exhibit A: “I myself … a Protestant, have been a member of three different denominations in my life.”
The Ellison findings seem to echo a large national survey conducted last year by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which found that
44 percent of Americans have switched from one faith, or one denomination, to another.
Ellison detected a profound difference between Protestants and Catholics on the question of denominational loyalty: 60 percent of active Catholics said they would only consider attending a Roman Catholic congregation.
“It’s not like there are 75 different Catholic denominations, where
(if) they don’t like the Southern Catholic Convention, they can go to the Progressive Catholic Convention,” said Sellers, whose findings were based on a nationally representative online panel of 1,007 U.S. adults, including 471 respondents who attended a Christian congregation one or more times a month.
Nancy Ammerman, a sociologist of religion at Boston University School of Theology, said the survey reflects changes in how people choose congregations.
“It has become unfashionable to claim to be denominationally loyal,”
she said. “It has become … kind of the way people expect to talk about their religiosity, to say that they wouldn’t put denomination above some other important criteria.”
What are those other criteria? Ammerman suggested worshippers put far greater emphasis on how closely preachers stick to the Bible, or how inspiring their sermons tend to be, than the name on the sign on the church’s front lawn.
In addition, she said, the lack of clarity between denominations — does the average layperson really know the difference between the Church of God and the Church of Christ? — makes labels less meaningful.
“You can have very, very theologically conservative Presbyterian churches and very, very liberal Presbyterian churches, so people have sort of also gotten into their heads that the label on the door doesn’t tell them what they need to know,” she said.
Still, denominations do have some competitive advantage. The 16 percent figure for denominational loyalty was higher than consumers’
loyalty to a particular brand of athletic shoe, department store, major appliance, light bulb and numerous other products, according to the study.
And even as some Americans move from one town to another, or meet potential partners from different backgrounds, Ammerman said there are some limits to denominational shifting.
“You don’t get a lot of Pentecostals becoming Episcopalians,” she said.
By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • nnmns

    And well they should be. Tooth decay is real.

  • Charles Cosimano

    A long time ago the movement between Protestant denominations had more to do with social status and upward mobility. At the top were the Unitarians, Episcopalians and Congregationalists. Under them were the Methodists and Presbyterians. The Lutherans were a largely ethnic denomination, as were the Reformed and smaller ones such as the Moravians.
    Then there were the Baptists and the variations on that theme, rural and working class folks. And finally you hit bottom with the Pentecostals and snake handlers.
    That changed in the 1950s and 60s with people from the bottom rung moving up in life but staying in their churches rather than moving to a higher class denomination. That allowed folks from the upper rung to look at the Baptists, and ultimately the Pentecostals as possible choices as that no longer carried a social stigma.
    Even the Lutherans started to lose their ethnic, German flavor (largely due to two world wars in which it was socially unacceptable to speak German in church).
    As a result, denominational mobility among Protestants became far less a matter of theology (which frankly never mattered very much anyway) and even less of social mobility and more of finding a comfort zone, a place they liked.
    And thus it has remained, to the horror of the professionals who worry about such things, but it is not like anyone very much cares what they think anyway.

  • pagansister

    Isn’t it nice that in the USA there are so many varieties of religious institutions that a person can be particular…like being in a huge store with a multitude of choices…let’s see..this week I’ll be a Methodist and buy Colgate toothpaste next week I’ll be a Unitarian and buy Tom’s toothpaste…etc. And all the choices of toilet paper? Yes, in this country we have choices of worship or not to worship unlike some countries, where if you don’t worship at a particular place…YOU DIE!

  • jestrfyl

    And this does not even come close to Team loyalty. Religious affiliation goes right out the window for members of the SoxNation, Yankees fans, and on and on. The same is as true for American football or International soccer or any other sport. We manage to find all sorts of ways to reduce, reform, and recollect ourselves in a variety of tribes.
    Toothpaste! Hah – who cares. Protestant, Catholic, Moslem, Jew? So what? (unless the games are on somebodies sabbath) Now how ’bout them Saux?!! Wicked good! Next year in Fenway!

  • Henrietta22

    People should pay attention to what the church they belong to, believes, before they join. They may find that they believe in things they don’t, and then it takes more time to find one they do believe in. Much easier to change products than churches.

  • Tom

    I guess I’ve always had a different take on religion. Granted we could treat it like bying a car, golf clubs, or a pair of sneakers, trying to find the one closest to being taylor-made to our own beliefs and preferences. How many truly take the time to evaluate their own beliefs and pray for guidance in the right direction? There is an awful lot to choose from, but couldn’t this lead to idolatry?

  • Dentist Kendall

    That’s a fact.

Previous Posts

Former Muslim Wants to See Change   Author and former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke at the National Press Club on April 7th and said there needs to be five amendments to Islam. She said “individuals” within Islam today ...

posted 9:08:12am Apr. 10, 2015 | read full post »

Hispanics turning evangelical, Jews secular
Worship service attendance is up in New York City, but down among young adult Jews, according to recent studies. On the other hand, fewer Spanish-speaking teens are attending Catholic mass, but more are showing up at Evangelical ...

posted 3:10:30pm Nov. 05, 2013 | read full post »

Billy Graham: I know where I'm going
“Daddy thinks the Lord will allow him to live to 95,” said Franklin Graham recently. It was not a prophecy but a hope, Franklin explained, ...

posted 10:02:01am Oct. 24, 2013 | read full post »

Are All These Christians' Complaints of Persecution Just So Much Empty Whining?
The headlines are alarming: “Catholic-Owned Company Wins Religious Freedom Court Decision,” “Death Toll Rises to 65 in Boko Haram Attack on Students,” “Little Sisters Catholic Charity Victimized By Obamacare,” “Christians Sought ...

posted 2:41:26am Oct. 07, 2013 | read full post »

How can Christians defend themselves against today's random violence?
So, a crazed gunman opens fire and you’re caught in the middle. How can you survive? Heroes come in all sorts of packages. And they wield all sorts of defensive weapons. Such as guns and Jesus. Sometimes both at the same time. [caption ...

posted 2:53:48pm Sep. 27, 2013 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.