The latest issue (Sep. 2007) of the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion includes an article by Stanley Presser of the University of Maryland and Mark Chaves of Duke University about whether there has been a linear decline in church attendance.
Presser and Chaves take a different route to tracking religious attendance in their study. They think that when asked directly about attending church, people tend to overreport their presence in the pews. In this study, the two sociologists pay more attention to time-use studies in which individuals say what they did on days of the week to avoid asking participants directly about church attendance.
According to the time-use studies, Presser and Chaves conclude that religious attendance did decline slightly in the period between 1950 and 1990. Mainline Protestant and Catholic service attendance also declined over that period. According to the authors, there is currently no theory of religious change that accounts for periods of stability alternating ...1