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About the year 2000: Religious beliefs of Americans

The Ten Commandments, other
beliefs, social problems, role of
religion, church/state separation

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Posting the Ten Commandments and other church/state separation issues: started a web-site poll on 1999-JUN-18. The poll was probably created as a response to the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, CO. They asked the question: "Do you think posting the Ten Commandments in schools will have a positive effect on youth crime?" Answers, as of 2000-MAR-6, from 64,219 voters were: 

bullet 65% Negative responses:
bullet 59% No, and it violates the separation of church and state; 
bullet 6% No;
bullet 35% Positive responses:
bullet 33% Yes
bullet 2% Yes, but it violates the separation of church and state
bullet 1% Not sure

There was no allowance in the poll for the opinion that posting the Ten Commandments might increase school violence. Almost all of the school shooters were motivated to commit their crimes either:

bullet because of mental illness, or
bullet because of an overpowering desire for revenge in retaliation for having been marginalized, rejected and belittled by fellow students for a long time.

Posting the Ten Commandments with their four or five commandments to worship Jehovah would probably create one more minority to ridicule: those who are neither Christian nor Jewish. That might increase the frequency of shootings.

The First Amendment Center and the American Journalism Review released the results of a poll on 2003-AUG-1. They found that:

bullet 68% of adults believe that teachers who include "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance were not violating the principle of separation of church and state.
bullet 36% said that they were.
bullet 73% of respondents said that the pledge, including the "under God" phrase is "primarily a statement related to the American political tradition."
bullet 18% said that it was primarily a religious statement.
bullet 60% of adults said that it was acceptable to post the Ten Commandments in government offices.
bullet 35% said that they should not.
bullet 60% favored allowing the government to fund drug treatment programs at religious institutions, even if they include a religious message in their programs.
bullet 36% said that they should not.

N = 1,000. margin of error is 3.1 percentage points. 12

Other beliefs:

Item American Population Born-again Christians * Ref.
Churches should accept gay leaders. 46%   1
Viewing pornography is a matter of taste, not morality. 33%   1
The Bible is totally accurate (1997). 58%   1
The Bible is totally accurate (2001). 41%   2
Religious faith is very important to me. (1997) 87%   1
Religious faith is very important to me. (2001) 68%   2
America is now experiencing a spiritual revival. 50% 58% 3
Modern-day Witches (Wiccans) have supernatural power 28%    
Modern-day Witches (Wiccans) don't have supernatural power about 65%    
Protestant clergy consider their church to be: Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Charismatic, liberal 36, 79, 19, 13%   3
Adult church goers consider their church to be: Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Charismatic, liberal 29, 20, 32, 42%   3
Adults who consider themselves religious, but don't like Christian TV 60%


Adults who believe that God performs miracles 84%   5
Adults who believe that the miracles in the Bible actually happened 79%   5

Concerns about social problems:

In 2001-MAY, CitizenLink conducted a poll of its subscribers. CitizenLink is a daily news service written from a fundamentalist Christian perspective by Focus on the Family. We suspect that the poll is indicative of the concerns of conservative Christians on social matters. Subscribers were asked to select the three issues that interested them most. As of 2001-MAY-2, their main concerns were:

bullet Abortion access: 22%
bullet Religious liberty: 19%
bullet Marriage: 13%
bullet Education: 12%
bullet Homosexuality: 12%
bullet Parental rights: 11%

Topics of little interest, selected by 4% or fewer of the subscribers were: 

bullet Pornography: 4%, 
bullet Sexual abstinence (presumably of unmarried children): 3%,
bullet Physician assisted suicide: 2%,
bullet Privacy rights: 2%,
bullet Gambling: 1%

It is unknown how this list compares to the concerns of religious liberals. 1,738 subscribers participated in the survey. The margin of error is about ~+mn~2.4%.

Beliefs about the role of religion:

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a poll conducted during 2001-NOV that showed:

bullet Of those surveyed, 78% felt that the influence of religion in the United States was growing.
bullet This is a major increase over a similar Pew poll in 2001-MAR, when only 37% of those questioned had felt that way. The change might have been caused by the 9/11 attack.
bullet The 2001-NOV survey found that 61% felt that religion was important in their own personal lives -- a number that was virtually unchanged from the 2001-MAR study. 11

Separation of church and state:

Pew Research reported on this topic on 2007-OCT-01. 13 As part of their studies of Pentecostals and Charismatics, they asked the question:

"Which comes closer to your view? The government should take special steps to make our country a Christian country, or there should be a separation between church and government.

Results were:

Group Make it a Christian nation Separation of
church & state
Pentecostals 52% 36%
Charismatics 34% 51%
Other Christians 20% 67%
All Americans 25% 60%

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  1. "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:
  2. "Religious beliefs vary widely by denomination," 2001-JUN-25, Barna Research Group, Ltd., at:
  3. "Annual study reveals America is spiritually stagnant," Barna Research Group, Ltd., at:
  4. Zoetics poll for Total Living Network. Reported by ReligionToday on 2000-MAR-2. 1000 adults sampled. They found that "viewers are overloaded with TV preachers and want more entertaining fare."
  5. Reported in Newsweek, 2000-MAY-1 edition.
  6. "Annual survey of America's faith shows no significant changes in past year."  See:  
  7. 1965 Gallup Poll, described by Charisma. Online at: 
  8. Emerging Trends, 1999-SEP, Princeton Religion Research Center, at:
  9. G. Gallup and D. Lindsay. "Surveying the American Religious Landscape: Trends in U.S. Beliefs," Morehouse Publishing, (1999). Review/order this book
  10. "Answers to frequently asked questions," at: (link may be broken)
  11. "Number of Americans with no formal religion increasing, survey finds,"
    2002-JAN-7, PCUSA NEWS news release.
  12. "Survey: Majority of Americans OK With Ten Commandments, Pledge in Public," Religion News Service, 2003-AUG-5, at:
  13. "Separation of Church and State," Pew Research Center, 2007-OCT-05, at:
  14. Jeffrey M. Jones, "U.S. Clergy, Bankers See New Lows in Honesty/Ethics Ratings' Police officers? image recovers," Gallup, Inc., 2009-DEC-09, at:

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Copyright 1999 to 2009. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-MAY-13
Latest update: 2009-DEC-10
Author: B.A. Robinson 

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