Pew Survey on Religion & Public Life, Part II


The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life releases the second report of a landmark survey today. The survey examines the tremendous diversity of Americans’ religious beliefs and practices as well as their social and political views. This new analysis follows the first report of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which was published in February 2008 and detailed the size and demographic characteristics of religious groups in the U.S.

The Dallas News has one of the first mainstream media articles on the latest Pew report.

On the way to salvation:

About seven in 10 of those surveyed said they believed that many religions can lead to eternal life and that there is more than one true interpretation of the teachings of their own religion.

A majority of the members of almost every religious tradition agreed with those positions: More than 60 percent of those who said they were Southern Baptists said they believed that many religions can be right about how to get to the hereafter. And about eight in 10 Catholics said they believed there was more than one true interpretation of their faith.

In both of those cases, the majority seems to be at odds with official teachings.

About the size of the Religious Right:

Depending on the question, from a third to half of those who said they belong to Evangelical churches took religious and political positions generally associated with the religious right. If those results are accurate, 10 percent to 15 percent of voting-age Americans would be in that group.

Based on interviews conducted in English and Spanish with a representative sample of more than 35,000 adults, part two of the Landscape Survey includes a wealth of information on the religious beliefs and practices of the American public. It also explores the social and political attitudes of religious groups, including groups that are as small as three-tenths of 1 percent of the adult population.

Topics explored in the report include the importance of religion in people’s lives; belief in God and the afterlife; attitudes toward the authority of sacred writings; frequency of worship attendance, prayer and meditation; and views of religion and morality, among others. The report also examines ideological and partisan orientation; attitudes on abortion, homosexuality, evolution and other social issues; views on helping the needy, the environment, and the size and proper role of government; and opinions on foreign affairs.

Some of the initial findings say that 70 percent of Americans don’t think it is important that you assent to certain dogma in order to be saved. Among Evangelicals, the figure was 50 percent.

While 92 percent believe in God, about 30 percent of those don’t believe in a “personal God” but in more of a force or being of some undefined sort. The percentage is somewhat higher among Catholics than the rest of the population.

More media reports:

Highlights from Pew U.S. religion survey

Are U.S. atheists from Venus and Mormons from Mars? (Reuters)

Some U.S. atheists seem to be confused (Reuters)

Survey Shows U.S. Religious Tolerance (NYT)

Christians: No One Path to Salvation (TIME)

My faith isn’t the only way (AP)

Believers OK with many paths (USA Today)

More Than 90 Percent Believe in God (Washington Post)

On the intersection of politics, religion and race (Newsweek)

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Jim Naughton

Some folks from the Wednesday Bible study at St. Alban's Church in the Diocese of Washington may figure in the CBS Evening News report on this survey tonight at 6:30 EDT.

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