God's existence & importance.
|When asked: "Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?"
Americans' beliefs were quite constant until about the end of the last century, when beliefs started to decline rapidly. Over the last seven decades, the Gallup Organization has found: 1|
These six only scratch the surface of the diversity of beliefs about the nature of God. Unfortunately, most commentators appear to ignore the phrase "or a universal spirit" in the question that was asked. They incorrectly report their data as belief in God, alone.
Also, polling groups tend to misrepresent their conclusions on this and other sensitive matters. What they report is not the actual percentage of Atheists. They report only on the percentage of Atheists who admit to their beliefs to a stranger over the telephone who claims that they are from a polling agency and will keep their answer confidential. Because of widespread animosity in the U.S. towards Agnostics and Atheists many of them are cautious and will not reveal their beliefs accurately.
Gallup conducted a poll between 2007-MAY-10 and 13 that asked more precise questions about God:
It may be quite shocking to many Americans that only about 3 out of 4 adults actually believe in a supreme being who is a personal God.
|The General Social Survey (GSS) asks the specific question: "Do you, personally, believe in God?"
|Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducts an annual poll of registered
voters for Fox News. They asked the question: " "Do you personally believe in
the existence of each of the following?" followed by a list of 11 items, asked
in random order. One of the items was "God." Results were:|
* Datum for all adults sampled; remaining data for registered voters only.
This survey produced noticeably higher values than the GSS. We suspect that this is because in the Opinion Dynamics survey this question was preceded by an inquiry into attendance at religious services. About twice as many Americans say they attend religious services regularly than actually do attend. With so many subjects lying on that motherhood issue, it is quite likely that they would be more inclined to also lie about their belief in the existence of God.
It is important to remember that the above data is what the people being polled "say" about their belief in God. They are being questioned by a stranger over the phone. Because of widespread dislike and mistrust of Atheists throughout the country, many Atheists and Agnostics are reluctant to admit that they don't believe in God. So one can assume that the actual percentages of theists are significant lower than polls indicate.
Pamela Whissel wrote an article titled "Hiding in Plain Sight" in the American Atheist journal (second quarter, 2017). It was subtitled:
"If you let them stay in the closet, atheists just might let you know they exist."
She discussed innovative research by Will Gervais, an evolutionary and cultural psychologist at the University of Kentucky. He studied how atheists in the U.S. are perceived by their fellow Americans. He conducted a survey using the "unmatched count" technique. Rather than ask subjects directly whether they believe in God, one randomly selected "control" group was asked how many in a list of six innocuous statements applied to them -- statements like: "I can drive a stick shift" "I have visited New York City" "I have played Scrabble." Presumably subjects would be willing to reveal how many apply to themselves. The pollsters also asked a second randomly selected "test" group the same six questions with one more added: "I do not believe in God." Presumably, the second group would also be willing to reveal how many applied to them because the questioner would not have any way of knowing whether the "God question" applied to them. From the differences between responses of the the two groups Gervais was able to estimate that 26% of the group were Atheists. This is far more than previous polls by large polling agencies who used direct questioning.
The recent drop in the percentage of people who "say" they believe in a God or Universal Spirit may be partly caused by the lessening of bias against Atheists. This would result in more of them becoming willing to be truthful when the are polled about such a touchy topic.
The Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion and the Department of Sociology, both at Baylor University, conducted the Baylor Religion Survey during the winter of 2005/2006. It was funded by the John M. Templeton Foundation. They asked 1,721 randomly selected American adults a total of 77 questions covering a broad range of religious questions. 2,3 Of these, one dealt with the existence of God in some detail:
Question 21: "Which one statement comes closest to your personal beliefs about God?"
|65.8% I have no doubts that God exists|
|14.3% I believe in a higher power or cosmic force|
|10.8% I believe in God, but with some doubts|
|4.6% I donít believe in anything beyond the physical world|
|2.8% I have no opinion|
|1.7% I sometimes believe in God|
In summary, about:
|5% of the adult population are strong Atheists.|
|3% of adults are Agnostics.|
|14% believe in some type of higher power other than God;|
|12% believe in some type of God, but with lapses or doubts in his/her/their existence;|
|Only 66% firmly believe in some type of God.|
An analysis by Baylor of of their 2006 survey data revealed that there are two and distinct dimensions to belief in God:
This led naturally to four very different concepts of God among the American population:
The second most popular concept believed in by about one quarter of the American adult population, is the "Type D" or "Distant God," who closely matches the Deistic belief. Yet very few people are aware of Deism as a religion. This would appear to be a magnificent opportunity for a religious entrepreneur to start up the next big religion, matched to the beliefs of this 23%.
Since in excess of 70% of the American adult population identify themselves as Christians, one might ask which of the four Gods is a close match to Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) as described in the Bible. Actually all four do. All one has to do is to select individual passages from the Bible and ignore other passages.
|"God is very important in my life"||American Poll||Canadian Poll|
This difference between Americans and Canadians may explain why:
(BTW, among both Americans and Canadians, surveys that count noses have shown that about half of both Americans and Canadians lie when answering the last question.)
Many Christians expect Jesus Christ to return to earth in the immediate future, and usher in an end of the world as we know it. This belief has been common since the founding of Christianity in the 1st century CE. As the second millennium CE came to a close, expectations rose belief was particularly high:
|An Associated Press survey in 1997 revealed that 24% of American adults expected
to be still alive when Jesus returns. Many of these probably believe that they would be
raptured (elevated from the earth to be with Jesus) and thus will
never experience death.|
|A poll conducted for Newsweek magazine in 1999-JUN asked American adults whether they
believed that Jesus would return during the next millennium -- i.e.
between years 2001 and 3000
CE. Results were:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.