Week 11 (!?) update: Religious affiliation / by Benjamin Woo

I had a busy week: finishing two major writing/editing projects, starting a new blog about RPGs, and filing a job application. At the end, I realized that I'd forgotten to write an update on the project! Since I'm getting myself caught up on a Sunday morning in my pyjamas, I thought it might be interesting to look at (ir)religiosity amongst comics creators.

Word cloud of religious affiliation responses.

Word cloud of religious affiliation responses.

The survey asks participants whether they consider themselves to be a member of a religion or religious denomination. Note that this is a question about affiliation and not necessarily practice – it doesn’t even ask whether they consider themselves to be religious. And, indeed, looking at the responses of those who indicated yes and filled in which group they considered themselves a member of, we see responses like “lapsed Catholic” and “non-practicing Jew.”

Just about 20% of respondents say they belong to religion or religious denomination. This is almost the inverse of the population as a whole.

According to a Pew Research Centre survey on religion in American life conducted in 2007, 78.4% of Americans claim Christian affiliation, 4.7% claim affiliation to another religious tradition, and 16.1% are unaffiliated (mostly people who are “nothing in particular,” includes 5.8% who are “religious unaffiliated,” but this is also the category for atheists and agnostics).

In Canada, the 2011 National Household Survey found that 67.3% of the population claimed Christian affiliation, 7.2% reported a religious affiliation other than Christian, and 23.9% claimed no religious affiliation (up from 16.5% on the 2001 census).

Are comic creators really so out of step with the population as a whole? Perhaps their relative youth is a factor here. You’ll recall that comics creators have a younger median age than the US population and are significantly younger than the US workforce. What if we compare comickers’ rates of religious affiliation with a more representative age cohort, rather than the population as a whole?

© Pew Research Centre

© Pew Research Centre

This data from the 2001 Canadian census breaks reported religious affiliation down by age. With a little math, we can work out the proportion of religious to non-religious within each category, though they don’t map precisely onto the age cohorts used in the Work in Comics survey. As of 2001, 19.5% of Canadians under 15 years of age, 20% between 15 and 24, and 21.3% between 25 and 34 claimed no religious affiliation. More recent Pew data from the US shows an increase of people reporting no religious affiliation among Milennials (25% in 2010).

So, although there's an obvious trend away from religious affiliation and participation (though by no means as strong as some advocates of the “secularization thesis” would have it), age alone does not account for 80% of comic creators reporting no religious affiliation. But I'm not sure what does explain it – is comic reading and comic-book culture in some way inimical to religious faith? Is there some confounding variable I’m missing? In any case, it looks like the Christian Comic Arts Society has its work cut out for it.

In other news, this is the last week to complete the Work in Comics survey. If you haven't done so, please consider taking the survey and sharing it with your peers and collaborators. This is your last chance to be counted in the first systematic, sociological study of careers in English-language comics production.