COMMENTARY 765.3: Religion in America

Many people see a close connection between religion and ethics for good reason: ethical principles like love, compassion, mercy, charity, and justice are common foundations to all major religions.

This doesn’t mean that religious beliefs are essential to ethical conduct or that everyone who professes to be religious is virtuous. History is full of examples of hypocritical and exploitive religious leaders and persecutions and terrorism carried out under the banner of religion.

Still, when done right, the moral education of many people comes in the context of religious education and there is a positive correlation between authentic religious convictions and good character.

That’s why I was fascinated by a huge study based on interviews of 30,000 Americans by the Pew Foundation.  Here are some highlights:

  • Religion is deeply entrenched in the American culture – 56 percent  say religion is very important in their lives, 82% say it’s at least somewhat important – only 7% say it’s not important at all.
  • While one in four (24%) believe their religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life, most, 70%, believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. A similar percentage (68%) believe there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their own religion.
  • Americans believe in prayer. More than 90% (93%), pray outside of religious services and nearly 60% pray at least once a day.
  • 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.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

See this post for more data from the Pew study.

Check out my commentary on the young Christian who started a major controversy with his YouTube video criticizing religion.

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