How much difference does a good religious leader make?

When asked to characterize the strength of their religious affiliation, 34 percent of Catholics said it was “strong,” up from 27 percent in 2012, the year before Pope Francis was elected.

That 7-point rise was a “significant bounce,” said Mark Gray of Georgetown University, who analyzed the Catholic numbers from the 2014 General Social Survey which began in 1972.

There was also a decline in the percentage saying their affiliation with the Catholic Church was “not very strong,” down 6 points, to 56 percent. “This breaks a trend of consistently declining numbers of Catholics saying their affiliation is ‘strong’ in the last decade,” Gray said.

An even better marker of the strength of any religion, is the retention rate — that is, the percentage of those raised in a religion, both those whose affiliation is strong and those who say it is not very strong, who remain affiliated as adults. Gray noted that the retention rate for Catholicism has been steadily declining since the early 1970s, from a high in the mid-80s to a low of 65 percent in 2012.

But the 2014 GSS showed that the rate remained steady for the first time. “Given recent history, even holding steady is an interesting result,” Gray said.

The endurance of Catholicism is also in contrast to the affiliation rates for Protestants and other Christians, which continue to decline sharply, dipping below 50 percent in 2014 for the first time. Maybe they need a Pope Francis of their own.

I know Israel needs to elect new chief rabbis who will passover from harsh strictness and exclusion in general; to welcoming converts to Judaism from all denominations, and showing kindness and inclusion for Conservative and Reform Judaism.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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