WORTH READING: Wow! Lots of interesting findings and facts on Religion in America

Today’s commentary looks at some of the data in a major survey conducted by the Pew Forum for Religion & American Life. The study comprehensively details the belief patterns of the 14 largest religious traditions. Below is a more complete summary of key findings I found interesting.

  • BELIEF IN GOD. 92% believe in God or a universal spirit; only 8% say they do not believe.
  • ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY. 71% say they are absolutely certain in their belief in God.
    • 90% of members of Evangelical Christian, historically black and Mormon churches are absolutely certain in their beliefs in God compared to 82% of Muslims, 73% Mainline Protestant churches, 72% Catholics, 45% Hindu, 35% Buddhist, and 31% Jews.
  • PERSONAL OR IMPERSONAL GOD. 60% believe that God is a person with whom they can have a relationship; 25% believe God is an impersonal force.
    • 91% of Mormons, 79% of Christian Evangelicals, 60% of Catholics believe in a personal god with whom they could have a relationship compared to 20% of Buddhists, 25% of Jews, 31% of Hindus, and 41% of Muslims.
  • AFFILIATED WITH FORMAL RELIGION. 61% of Americans identify themselves as official members of a local church or house of worship.
  • IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION. 56 percent  say religion is very important in their lives, 82% say it’s somewhat important – only 7% say it’s not important at all.
    • 85% of those affiliated with historically black churches say religion is very important, as do 83% of Mormons, 79% of Christian Evangelicals, 72% of Muslims, 56% of Catholics, and 52% of Christian mainline Protestants.
  • ONE AND ONLY TRUE RELIGION. 24% believe their religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life; most, 70%, believe that many religions can lead to eternal life.
    • 89% of Hindu, 86% of Buddhists, 83% of Mainline Protestants, 82% of Jews, and 79% of Catholics believe that many different religions can lead to eternal life, compared with 39% of the Mormons, 56% of Muslims, and 59% of Historically Black Protestants
  • ONLY ONE TRUE INTERPRETATION OF THEIR RELIGION.  More than two-thirds (68%) believe there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their own religion.
    • 90% of Buddhists, 89% of Jews, and 85% of Hindus believe there is more than one true way to interpret their own religion compared to 43% of Mormons, 53% of Christian Evangelicals and 57% of those affiliated with historically black Protestant churches.
  • PRAYER. 93% say they pray – 82% at least once a month, and 58% at least once a day.
  • RECEIVED ANSWER TO PRAYER. Of those who pray, 90% believe they received a definite answer to a specific prayer request; 62% believe they receive direct answers to their prayers at least once a month.
  • RELIGIOUS EDUCATION. 60% of those who have children living at home send them to Sunday school or another religious education program.
  • HEAVEN AND HELL. 74% believe there is a heaven, where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded; 59% believe there is a hell, where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished.
  • DIVINE HEALING. 36% have experienced or witnessed a divine healing of an illness or injury.
  • RELIGIOUS STUDY. 45% read scripture outside of religious services at least once a month.
  • MIRACLES. 47% believe miracles still occur today as in ancient times.
  • ANGELS AND DEMONS. 40% believe that angels and demons are active in the world.
  • GENDER IMPACT. Men are more likely to claim no religious affiliation than women (20% versus 13%).
  • INTER-MARRIAGE. 37% of those who are married are married to someone with a different religious affiliation (this includes Protestant denomination such as a Methodist marrying a Baptist).
  • RACE AND ETHNICITY. Of all major racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., black Americans are most likely to report a religious affiliation.
  • SOCIAL IMPACT OF RELIGION. 34% believe religion causes more problems in society than it solves
  • RIGHT AND WRONG. 78% believe there are clear and absolute standards for what is right and wrong.
  • RELIGION AND POLITICS. 50% say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on day-to-day social and political questions.
  • IMPACT OF ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY. 42% say they often feel that their values are threatened by Hollywood and the entertainment industry.
  • CONFLICT BETWEEN RELIGION AND MODERN LIFE. 40% think there is a natural conflict  between being a devout religious person and living in a modern society.
  • EVOLUTION. 48% believe that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth, 45% disagree and 7% say they don’t know.
  • SOCIAL AND POLITICAL BELIEFS
    • LIFE SATISFACTION. 86% are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal lives; 75% are very satisfied with their family life; only 5% say they are dissatisfied.
    • GOVERNMENT ROLE IN ISSUES OF MORALITY. 52% worry that government is getting too involved in the issue of morality; 40% think the government should do more to protect morality in society.
    • HOMOSEXUALITY. 50% believe homosexuality should be accepted by society.
    • ABORTION. 51% believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 16% say it should be illegal in all cases.
    • SOCIAL SERVICES. 62% think the government should do more to help needy Americans, even if it means going deeper into debt.
    • ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS. 61% believe that stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost.
    • COMMUNITY SERVICE. 65% do community volunteer work through their place of worship; 46% do so at least several times per year.
    • SOCIAL LIFE AND RELIGION. 78% participate in social activities, such as meals and club meetings or other gatherings at their place of worship; 39% do so at least monthly.
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