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Religious beliefs of Americans

2010: Notable survey findings and events

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Summary of important religious findings, as assembled by the Public Religion Research Institute:

The Public Religion Research Institute publishes its findings "at the intersection of religion, values, and public life" on their website at: Robert P. Jones is its CEO.

At the end of 2010, they evaluated the "... research findings on religion and politics" among American adults as prepared by Pew Research and other polling agencies. They found the most important to be:

  1. 47% of those who identify with the Tea Party movement also identify themselves with the Christian Right.

  2. Pew Research found that 18% wrongly believe that President Obama is a Muslim. 51% say his religious beliefs are different from their own. 1

  3. 57% oppose the construction of the Islamic center and mosque near ground zero in New York City. However, 76% would support a Muslim mosque being built in their community.

  4. 24% give churches an "F" for their handling of homosexuality. 5% give an "A." Two thirds see a link between church messages and the higher rate of suicides among lesbian and gay youths.

  5. 45% say that Islamic values are in conflict with American values and way of life; 49% disagree.

  6. 51% of Californians would vote to allow same-sex marriages in California if a vote like Prop. 8 were repeated today.

  7. More than 70% feel that immigration reform should be guided by the protection of the dignity of the individual, keeping families together, and the Golden Rule.

  8. Between 1/3 and 1/2 of marriages are interfaith. About 1 in 3 Americans have switched religions during their life.

  9. Pew research found that the average American answered correctly only about half of its questions on religious knowledge.

  10. Most white Christians voted for the Republican party. Most minority Christians and persons who are unaffiliated with any religion voted Democrat.

  11. Almost 60% affirm religious exceptionalism: the belief that God gave America a special role in human history. Those that believe in exceptionalism are more likely to support military interventions in foreign countries and to believe that torture of prisoners is sometimes justified.

To which we might add, with considerable amazement:

  • Same-sex marriage: A meta-study of polls on same-sex marriage (SSM) in the U.S. has shown a gradual increase in support for SSM from about 12%, and a gradual loss in opposition from 73%, both in 1988. During 2010, they met in the middle: 50% support of SSM, 50% opposition. If past trends continue, support will continue to increase a little over 1.7 percentage points a year and opposition will drop by 1 percentage points a year; the gap would then widen by almost 3 percentage points a year, with SSM receiving support from an ever increasing percentage of the population.

  • Origins: Many Internet news sources reported that "78 percent of Americans doubt evolution." 2 They quoted a Gallup Poll survey for 2010-DEC. The reality turned out to be far less dramatic: Gallup found that 40% believe in creationism in which God created humans and the rest of the universe about 10,000 years ago; 38% believe in evolution guided by God; and 16% believe in naturalistic evolution in which God has played no part. So it is really only 40% of the population who no not believe in evolution. That agrees with the title of the Gallup report which is: "Four in ten Americans believe in strict creationism."3

  • Don't Ask, Don't Tell: The latest Washington Post poll on the 1993 DADT policy which prohibits lesbians, gays and bisexuals from openly serving in the military has risen from 44% in 1993 to 77% in 2010-DEC. Further, they found that 86% of Democrats, 74% of Republicans!, 74% of Independents, 70% of white evangelicals!! and 84% of NOTAS (None of the above/persons with no religious affiliation) support an end to the DADT policy. In spite of 74% of the Republicans favoring an end to the policy, only 8% of the Republican representatives in the House voted in favor of a bill to repeal DADT.

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We suggest that the following events are among the most notable during 2010:

  • On sexual orientation: This is considered by some to be the most important cultural debate during 2010. There were several major developments, including:

    • A new federal law in late December started a process to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy of the American military. This will eventually allow lesbians, gays and bisexuals to openly serve. In a parallel path, the DADT policy was ruled unconstitutional in a California federal court.

    • An executive order by President Obama requiring hospitals receiving Medicare funds to recognize same-sex civil unions, marriages and partnerships when allowing hosplital visitations and making critical health-care decisions.

    • A poll indicated that if Prop. 8 which banned same-sex marriages in California were voted on today, such marriages would be legalized in the state. A study of polls across the nation indicated for the first time that most American adults favor permitting same-sex marriages.

    • For the first time, the constitutionality of "traditional marriage" -- prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying -- was tested in federal court and found to be unconstitutional because it violates two separate clauses in the U.S. Constitution, which guarantee due process and equal protection.

  • Denominations: Protestant Christians became a minority at sometime over the past few years. The date cannot be defined accurately because there is no consensus on the exact definition of "Protestant."

  • On abortion access: This is considered as the second most important moral issue by many American adults. The news here was a relative lack of developments. About half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unexpected and unwanted. About half of them are terminated by abortions. The U.S. continues to have a very high abortion rate compared to other developed countries, particularly among adolescents.

  • Religious tolerance: The amazing expanding demonstration about the amazing moving building: Four groups organized a demonstration in New York City during 2010-JUN to protest the proposed Islamic cultural center: "Stop Isamization of America," "Families of the 9/11 Victims," "New York City Firefighters," and "Tea Party Activists of Brooklyn and Staten Island." A CNN iReporter estimated the crowd at 200 to 300. The head of "Stop Isamization of America" estimated 5,000. Jihad Watch estimated 10,000. The population of New York City is about 8.5 million.

    Meanwhile, the location of the proposed center has been described as: "on" ground zero, the location where the World Trade Center towers existed prior to the 9/11 terrorist attack. Other descriptions were "adjacent" or "just steps" or "two blocks" or a few blocks from ground zero. In reality, the location planned for the Center is six blocks from ground zero and not visible from ground zero.

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. President Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ, a relatively liberal Christian denomination.
  2. "78 Percent of Americans Doubt Evolution," The Daily Beast, 2010-DEC-20, at:
  3. "Four in ten Americans believe in strict creationism," Gallup Polls, 2010-DEC-17, at:

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Originally written: 2010-DEC-25
Latest update: 2010-DEC-25
Author: B.A. Robinson 

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