« PreviousContinue »
accommodations for over two thirds of the population, while the halls, schoolhouses, and other places where serions are preached have room for nearly two and a quarter millions more. As most churches have at least two services every Sunday, and as many persons attend only one, it seems a very reasonable inference that if the entire population should so desire, and sickness and other controlling conditions did not intervene, they could attend divine worship once a week.
In particular communities where the population is very sparse, the services may be too infrequent; in crowded centers the church accommodations may not in all cases be in adequate proportion to the numbers; but on the whole, taking all circumstances into consideration, it cannot be said that the spiritual interests of the millions are neglected, so far as privileges to worship are concerned.
It is an enormous aggregate of value (nearly $670,000,000) which has been freely invested for the public use and the public good in church property. This aggregate represents not all that Christian men and women have consecrated to religious objects, but only what they have contributed to buy the ground, and erect and furnish the buildings devoted to worship. The cost has in some cases run up into the hundred thousands; in many others it is covered by hundreds; in the vast majority of instances it is measured by thousands. Every community has one or more churches, according to the number, character, and needs of its population. In crowded cities, where real estate is quoted at high rates, and where churches generally occupy the best positions, the average value of the edifices rises to astonishing figures. This is especially true of the older cities, like New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, and of the older denominations, such as the Episcopal, the Reformed Dutch, and the Friends. The average value of the churches, taking the whole country and all Christian bodies into account, is $4707. Of course in some denominations the average is much greater, in others much smaller. For example, among the Original Freewill Baptists of the Carolinas it is only $455 ; while in the Reformed (Dutch) Church it reaches $19,227; in the Unitarian, $24,725; and in the Reformed Jewish, $38,839, which is the highest for any denomination. The high average among the Jews is chiefly due to the fact that most of their communicants (nearly 88 per cent.) are to be found in the cities. Of Unitarian and Episcopal communicants, 48 per cent. are in cities of 25,000 population and upward. Denominations which, like the Disciples of Christ, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the United Brethren, have a constituency made up chiefly of rural inhabitants, report a lower average of value. The figures for the Disciples of Christ are $2292, for the United Brethren, $1513, and for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, $1480. It is to be noted that the average is much smaller in the Southern than in the Northern and New England States. As a matter of fact, at least twenty per cent. of the entire value of church property is returned by the State of New York alone; and New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Illinois together have more than fifty per cent. of it. No account is made in the census report of church debts, and the statistical plan of none of the denominations, with one or two exceptions, is designed to collect information on this point. The Methodist Episcopal Church, however, provides for it in its systematic yearly inquiries. In that body it appears that the debts on the churches constitute about eleven per cent. of their value. Whether this proportion holds good in other denominations it is impossible to say. doubtless, it is less; in others, more. In the Protestant Episcopal Church no edifice can be canonically consecrated until it is fully paid for.
Among the mightiest of the religious forces of this country are to be reckoned the members or communicants of the Christian churches. Allowing for those members who are dark beacons and either help not at all or help to lead astray, we have still an army of millions of men and women who, by lives devoted to the service of God and their own race, manifest the power of the gospel to reach and regenerate the human heart and satisfy its highest aspirations. These are active forces, constant in purpose, with an influence all-pervading and all-persuasive, touching the hearts of the young and shaping their tender thoughts for eternity, helping the older to make choice while opportunity offers, and encouraging the weak and stumbling believer to persevere. There are nearly twenty and a half millions of Christian believers, of all creeds and denominations. A considerable number are members of bodies only nominally Christian, and we should naturally exclude Spiritualists, Latter-Day Saints, and certain other denominations. With these omissions we would still have twenty millions of members, Protestant and Catholic, which is nearly one third of the entire population of the United States. When it is remembered that several millions of our population are children too young to be communicants, the showing for the churches cannot be regarded as unfavorable, by any means. Nearly one person in every three of all ages is a Christian communicant.
THE RELIGIOUS POPULATION.
What is our religious population? While no enumeration has been made to ascertain the religious preferences of the people of the United States, it is quite possible to form an estimate upon the basis of the communicants reported, which will be sufficiently accurate for all purposes. The usual way of computing religious population is by multiplying the number of communicants of any Protestant denomination by 372. This is on the supposition that for every communicant there are 2 72 adherents, including, of course, young children. A careful examination has satisfied me that this supposition rests on good grounds. I find support for it in a comparison between the census returns of the religious populations of various communions in Canada with those which the denominations give themselves of communicants. It will be convenient to arrange the returns for population and communicants in tabular form.
This table indicates that there are 2.5 Methodist, 3.5 Presbyterian, 4.6 Episcopalian, and 2.9 Baptist adherents to every communicant. The average is 3.2. This is higher than I feel warranted in applying to all denominations in the United States. The proportion varies with the denominations, and is probably much lower when the smaller and more obscure denominations are brought into consideration. Certainly, the results justify us in assuming that there are at least 2.5 adherents in the United States to each Protestant communicant, taking all the denominations together. In round numbers we may take 14,180,000 as representing the Protestant communicants. This leaves out not only the Catholics, but the Jews, the Theosophists, the Ethical Culturists, and the Spiritualists. It seems best to omit the Latter-Day Saints also. Multiplying this number by 3 72, we have 49,630,000, which represents the aggregate of Protestant communicants and adherents, or Protestant population. To this we must add the Catholic population, in order to get the entire Christian population. There are 6,257,871 Catholic communicants of all branches. Catholic communicants, according to Catholic estimates, constitute 85 per cent. of the Catholic population. There must, therefore, be a Catholic population of 7,362,000; adding this to the Protestant population, we have 56,992,000. This stands for the Christian population of the United States. As the population, according to the census, is 62,622,250, it would appear that there are 5,630,000 people who are neither Christian communicants nor Christian adherents. Making liberal allowance for the Jews and other religious bodies not embraced in the Christian population, there are 5,000,000 belonging to the non-religious and anti-religious classes, including freethinkers, secularists, and infidels. We have, of course, no warrant for believing that the majority of these 5,000,000 who are outside the religious populations are atheists, or avowed unbelievers. There are but few real atheists; few who do not have some belief concerning a supreme being and a future. But most of the 5,000,000 are probably opposed to the churches for various reasons. And we must not forget that in the fifty-seven millions counted as the Christian population are many who are indifferent to the claims of religion, and seldom or never go into a house of worship. Adding these, and the large number of members on whose lives religion exercises practically no power, to the 5,000,000, we have a problem of sufficient magnitude to engage the mind, heart, and hand of the church for a generation. One out of every twelve persons is either an active or passive opponent of religion; two out of every three are not members of any church,