Americans' beliefs about God
God's existence & importance.
Jesus' second coming.
Beliefs about God's existence:
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:|
|Not sure (Agnostics)
* 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.
The Baylor Religion Survey:
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.
these, one dealt with the existence of God in some detail:
Question 21: "Which one statement comes closest to your personal beliefs about
|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:
- God's level of engagement: whether God is directly involved in the world and in the personal affairs of humans, or is distant and disconnected.
- God's level of anger: whether God is angry at sins and reacts by punishing the sinful.
This led naturally to four very different concepts of God among the American population:
- Type A: Authoritarian (high on anger; high on engagement); believed in by 31% of the population.
- Type B: Benevolent (low on anger, high on engagement); believed in by 23%.
- Type C: Critical (high on anger, low on engagement); believed in by 16%.
- Type D: Distant (low on anger, low on engagement); believed in by 24%.
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.
Importance of God in North Americans' lives -- comparing gender and nationality: 2
|"God is very important in my life"
This difference between Americans and Canadians may explain why:
- There are
very few demonstrations against abortion access in Canada,
- Same-sex marriage became available across Canada in 2005, whereas fewer than half of American states have marriage equality,
- 40% of Americas say they attend religious services weekly,
- 20% of Canadians say they attend.
(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.)
Jesus' second coming:
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:
||All persons surveyed : 52%|
||Evangelical Protestants: 71%|
||Non-Evangelical Protestants: 48%|
||Roman Catholics: 47%|
||Non-Christians: 20% |
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Gallup Organization poll in 1994-DEC. Quoted in George Bishop, "What
Americans really believe," Free Inquiry, 1999-Summer, Pages 38 to
- "Selected findings from the Baylor Religion Survey," Baylor Institute
for Studies of Religion, Baylor University, 2006-SEP, at:
http://www.baylor.edu/ This is a PDF file.
- Baylor Religion Survey: Codebook, Association of Religion Data Archives, at:
- Millennium Study by Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch. Reviewed by
Maranatha Christian Journal for 1999-DEC-13 at:
This is a PDF file.
- "Belief in God," Gallup Poll, data collected 2007-MAY 10-13; published
http://www.galluppoll.com/. This was a temporary listing.
Copyright © 1999 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-MAY-13
Latest update: 2014-MAY-03
Author: B.A. Robinson