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Religious beliefs of U.S. Adults

About ghosts, salvation, Satan, Heaven,
Hell, Astrology, and the literal accuracy
of some biblical stories.

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Poll results on:

bullet Heaven and Hell by visitors to the Beliefnet web site
bullet Supernatural entities other than God: Ghosts, Satan...
bullet Ghosts
bullet Astrology
bullet Reincarnation
bullet Literal accuracy of Bible stories

Popular beliefs about the existence, importance and nature of God are in another essay.

Results in national polls on Heaven and Hell are shown in another essay.

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Beliefnet polls about how people are selected to spend eternity in Heaven or Hell:

Beliefnet is a multi-faith site. As such its visitors may well be weighted in favor of religious liberals and non-Christains.

bullet conducted a poll during 2006-MAY which asked "Have you personally known people you think will probably go to Hell?" Results show the division in North America between those who believe that being relegate to Heaven or Hell is dependent on one's beliefs, or behavior.

Results were:

bullet 35%: No, because I don't believe in Hell.

bullet 26%: Yes because they don't have the right beliefs.

bullet 23%: Yes because of their immoral actions.

bullet 17%: No.

bullet During 2007-JAN, conducted a similar poll asking: "Can good people outside your faith tradition attain salvation as you understand it?" Five answers were provided. Results were:
bullet 58%: Yes, fully, if they are sincere in their attempts to know or worship a deity.

bullet 3%: Yes, but not fully.

bullet 1%: No, but they are not punished.

bullet 28%: No, and unfortunately, there are consequences.

bullet 9% I don't know.

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Beliefs about supernatural entities other than God:

Belief in Satan:

American Population
Born-again Christians
Satan is an evil symbol, not a living entity (1997) * 62% 52% 3
Strongly believe that Satan is a real person (2001) 27%   4
Satan is real (2003). This question could have a wide variety of interpretations 68%   20
* For more poll data on belief about Satan, see our essay on Demons.

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American Population

Ghosts may exist (1999) 48% 15
Ghosts definitely do not exist (1999) 47% 15
Ghosts exist (2003) 51% 20
Belief by women that ghosts exist (2003) 58% 20
Belief by persons 25 to 29 years of age 65% 20
Belief by persons over 64 27% 20

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Item (2003)

American population 20

Believe in the accuracy of astrology 31%
Belief by women 36%
Belief by men 25%
Belief by persons 25 to 29 years of age 43%
Belief by persons over 64 17%

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Item (2003)

American population20

Believe in reincarnation 27%
Belief by persons 25 to 29 years of age 40%
Belief by persons over 64 14%

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Belief in the literal accuracy of Bible stories:

During 2007-DEC, The Barna Group asked a random sampling of 1,005 American adults what they believed about six popular Bible stories. 26 They were given two alternatives:

bullet That the stories were factually accurate, or

bullet They were not actual fact but were designed to teach principles.

Results were:

bullet 75% believe that the virgin birth is accurate.
bullet 69% believe that Jesus actually changed water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana.

bullet 68% believe that Jesus used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed five thousand men.

bullet 64% believe in the world-wide flood and of Noah and his ark. However, several groups did not regard it as a real event: Catholics, Atheists/Agnostics, Northeasterners, "upscale" adults (those college graduates with a family income over $75,000), and social/political liberals.

bullet 56% believe in the devil having tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Among Atheists/Agnostics, this was believed by 8%.

bullet 49% believe in the story of Sampson losing his physical strength when his hair was cut.

bullet On average, born-again Christians were 40 percentage points more likely to believe these stories than non-born again adults.

bullet On average, those who considered themselves as political conservatives were 26 percentage points more likely to believe the stories as literally true.

bullet Southerners and persons of lower earnings were more likely to treat the stories as literally true.

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Trends in these beliefs:

In the U.S., the percentage of adults who identify as Christian has been dropping at about one percentage point per year for many years. The percentage of U.S. adults who we call "NOTAs" (those who are NOT Affiliated with any religious group) has been increasing at almost the same rate. The country is becoming more secular. We expect that the percentage of persons who reject traditional Christian beliefs is increasing and will continue this trend.

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  1. Thomas C. Reeves, "The Empty Church: Does Organized Religion Matter Anymore?" Simon & Schuster: New York, NY (1998), Page. 64." Cited in under the topic "religious - modestlyRead reviews or order this book
  2. USA Today-CNN-Gallup poll for 1999-DEC, as reported in ReligionToday on 1999-DEC-29.
  3. "Angels are in; Devil & Holy Spirit are out," results of a survey conducted in 1997-JAN by Barna Research. Accuracy: within 3% points, 19 times out of 20. See:
  4. "Religious beliefs vary widely by denomination," 2001-JUN-25, Barna Research Group, Ltd., at:
  5. MetroVoice of Central New York, newspaper, Jamesville NY, 1996-MAY
  6. Maranatha Christian Journal, 1997-APR-22
  7. Gallup Organization poll in 1994-DEC. Quoted in George Bishop, "What Americans really believe," Free Inquiry, 1999-Summer, Pages 38 to 42.
  8. 1965 Gallup Poll, described by Charisma. Online at: 
  9. Gallup Poll, described on 2000-JUN-7 by Charisma. Online at: 
  10. USA Today-CNN-Gallup poll for 1999-DEC, as reported in ReligionToday on 1999-DEC-29.
  11. 1999 Poll by the Survey Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley CA. Reported in the Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON) newspaper on 1999-OCT-9.
  12. Gallup Organization poll in 1994-DEC. Quoted in George Bishop, "What Americans really believe," Free Inquiry, 1999-Summer, Pages 38 to 42.
  13. International Social survey Program (ISSP), 1991 & 1993. Quoted in George Bishop, "What Americans really believe," Free Inquiry, 1999-Summer, Pages 38 to 42.
  14. "Answers to frequently asked questions," at: (link may be broken)
  15. T. Hargrove & G.H. Stempel III, "Poll indicates a haunted nation." Nando Times, 1999-OCT-27. Describes a poll by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University during 1999-SEP/OCT. Margin of error: 4%
  16. A poll conducted for Newsweek magazine in 1999-JUN.
  17. Millennium Study by Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch. Reviewed by Maranatha Christian Journal for 1999-DEC-13 at: Church attendance data at: You can obtain a free software to read this type of file from Adobe.
  18. "The state of the church, 2000," Barna Research Group, Ltd., at:
  19. "How Americans See Themselves," results of a survey conducted in 1998-JAN. Accuracy: within 3% points, 19 times out of 20. See:
  20. "Most Americans believe in ghosts: Survey shows 1/3 accept astrology, 1/4 reincarnation," WorldNetDaily, 2003-FEB-27. The data poll was collected by Harris Poll from 2003-JAN-21 to 27. 2,201 subjects. Margin of error 2%.
  21. "Views of a Changing World, June 2003," Pew Global Attitudes Project, at:
  22. ChristianWebSite poll, 2003-SEP, at: It is probable that most of the visitors to this web site are conservative Christians.
  23. Beliefnet poll, 2006-JAN-03, at: This is an Internet poll and thus may not be representative of the American population.
  24. "Easter Poll," by Ipsos News Center, at:
  25. "Belief in God," Gallup Poll, data collected 2007-MAY 10-13; published 2007-JUN-14 at: This is a temporary listing.
  26. "Americans Express Their Views of the Virgin Birth of Christ," he Barna Group, 2007-DEC-17, at:

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Copyright 1999 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-MAY-13
Latest update: 2017-MAY-18
Author: B.A. Robinson 
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