What Americans believe about religion (sort of)

Newsweek and Beliefnet conducted a poll in early August and the results are in. There’s a lot of data to digest, and I think it is important to understand how Americans view their own religion since there are so many analogies we use and comparisons we make assuming the character of American religion as a given (“American Taliban,” “Muslim fundamentalists,”1 etc.). Here is the most interesting result to me:

Can a good person who isn’t of your religious faith go to heaven or attain salvation, or not?

Yes
Evangelical Protestants – 68%
Non-Evangelical Protestants – 83%
Catholics – 91%
Non-Christians – 73%
Total – 79%

No
Evangelical Protestants – 22%
Non-Evangelical Protestants – 10%
Catholics – 3%
Non-Christians – 3%
Total – 12%

Don’t know
Evangelical Protestants – 10%
Non-Evangelical Protestants – 7%
Catholics – 6%
Non-Christians – 24%
Total – 9%

The question is broadly stated. My personal communication with many evangelicals is that they tend to demur in responding to a query as to whether Roman Catholics may attain salvation, and often are open to the possibility, but will affirm that non-Christian religions are a definite path to hell. Nonetheless, it is an intertesting gauge of the situation in a country that is both extremely religious (at least by affirmation) and pluralistic.2

1 – The term “fundamentalist” is originally from the early 20th century in relation to the Protestant literalist movement and its revolt against modernist interpretations and scripture and adherence to a set of “fundamentals.”

2 – If you click the link and check the survey you will note that only 77% of those between the ages of 18-39 affirm a Christian faith, as opposed to 90% of those older, so the variance in religious belief is getting larger.

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