many of the nontraditional believers present in the "liberal" denominations back in 1963–1964 ended up leaving the churches—as reflected in the declining membership of these groups. This did not lead to a decline in traditional belief among the general public, nor did it inflate the proportion of the unchurched, because many of the defectors' sons and daughters returned to the churches.
This is supported by data showing that the majority of Americans raised in irreligious homes end up joining a religious group, most often one with a traditional theology.10
As would be expected, this relaxation of the rules resulted in many Catholics going to Mass less often than every week. Today Catholics attend church at about the same rate as Protestants (see chap. 1). Consequently, as compared with the days before the council's declaration, the overall rate of American church attendance declined. But that is it.
But the concern generated by this finding is a false alarm. This same effect can be found in every national survey of church attendance ever done. Young people have always been less likely to attend than are older people.