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Religious Tolerance logo

Religious Beliefs Of U.S. Adults,
About Their Own And Other
Religions, from 2000 to 2017:

Page 3

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Three other topics are covered in the previous essay.

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This essay contains public opinion poll results on:

bullet 6. How U.S. adults describe themselves

bullet 7. A biblical world view

bullet 8. Gender differences

bullet 9. Can a person be moral if they don't believe in God?

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6. How U.S. adults describe themselves:

A study by the Barna Group at the turn of the century found that adults described themselves

Item
Among a random
sample of U.S. adults
Among Born-again Christians *
See Reference.
As born-again 41% - 18
As Evangelicals 8% - 18
Mostly conservative on political & social issues 30% 40% 19
Mostly liberal on political & social issues 12% 6% 19
As religious 70% 88% 19
As committed Christians 62% 86% 19

A Religious Landscape Study by Pew Research in 2017 showed that among U.S. adults:

  • 70.6% identified themselves as Christian, of which:
    • 25.4% were Evangelical Protestants,
    • 20.8% were Roman Catholics,
    • 14.7% were Mainline Protestants,
    • 6.5% were Historically Black Protestant,
    • 1.6% were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons,
    • 0.8% were Jehovah's Witnesses,
    • 0.5% were Orthodox Christian, and
    • 0.4% were members of other Christian groups.

  • 5.9% followed Non-Christian faiths, of which:
    • 1.9 were Jewish,
    • 0.9 were Muslim,
    • 0.7% were Buddhist,
    • 0.5% were Hindu. and
    • 0.3% followed other world religions.

  • 22.8% are not affiliated with a faith group. They are often called "nones." However, this is a confusing term because it is a homonom of "nuns" and the two terms areeasily confused. This web site uses the term "NOTAs" which stand for "NOT Affiliated." They include:
    • 4.0% Agnostic
    • 3.1% Atheist
    • 15.8% Nothing in particular.

  • 0.6% "don't know." 1

 

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7. Biblical world views:

A wordview is a personal perspective on humanity, deity and the rest of the universe which is often based on a person's religious, spiritual and philosophical beliefs. A biblical worldview is a worldview based on a specific interpretation of the Bible. There are many biblical worldviews, reflecting various conservative, mainline, liberal, Gnostic, post-Christian and other belief systems.

The Barna Group defines a conservative Protestant biblical worldview as including eight beliefs:

bulletAbsolute truth exists.

bullet The sole source of moral truth is the Bible.

bulletThe Bible is without error in all of its teachings.

bullet

That eternal spiritual salvation cannot be earned through works while on earth.

Author's note: This seems to violate a statement in Matthew 25:31-46 which states that Jesus has only a single criterion for salvation: whether the person has done good deeds for needy people while on Earth. More details.


bulletJesus led a sinless life while on earth.

bulletEveryone has a responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others.

bulletSatan is a living force, not just a symbol of evil.

bulletGod is the creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient who still rules the universe today.

In 2005-AUG, Barna found that only 8% of adult American Protestants, 5% of adults generally and fewer than 0.5% of Roman Catholics "have a [conservative Protestant] biblical world view." 2

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8. Gender differences:

A telephone poll was conducted by the Barna Group during 1999 and the first two months of 2000 among 4,755 adults over the age of 18 who reside in the 48 contiguous U.S. states. The sampling error is within 2%. They show major gender-related differences in some matters of belief. 6 Some of their findings were: 

Item
Males
Females
Are Christian
83%
90%
Are evangelical Christian **
8%
9%
Are "born again"
36%
46%
Describe self as "spiritual"
63%
79%
Describe self as "deeply spiritual"
50%
69%
Faith is critical to their life
60%
75%

** The Barna Group has a very restricted definition of who is an evangelical. Only about "... one out of every five self-proclaimed evangelicals (19%) meets the Barna Group’s nine-point definition." 3

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9. Can a person be moral if they don't believe in God?

The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project surveyed randomly selected people during 2007 in 47 countries. They asked them whether one "Must Believe in God to be Moral?" 4 The surveys were updated in 2014. 5 The answers varied enormously around the world. Many faith groups within Christianianity and Islam teach that God sends immoral persons to the torture chambers of Hell permanently after death. So it may well appear reasonable to many people in countries where these religions predominate that if a person does not believe in God, they will have no motiation to be moral. The survey, as updated in 2014, found that in predominately Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia believe that Agnostics and Atheists cannot be moral. Examples are Egypt (95%), Indonesia (99%), Jordan (94%), and Senegal 84%).

In North America, which is largely Christian, 53% adults in the U.S. and 31% in Canada agree that belief in God is necessary. On the other hand, some largely secular countries say that belief in God is not neccesary for a person to be moral. Examples are France (85%), Spain (80%), Czech Rep. (78%) and Australia (76%). So do 72% in China and 55% in Japan.

We know of only one attempt to measure the morality of Atheists. That was a study of the percentage of Atheist and Christians inmates in U.S. federal prisons. The study found that Atheists were under represented compared to the percentage of Atheists in the general population by a factor of 8! Meanwhile, Christians were very slightly over represented among the prison population. This indicates that Atheists tend to exhibit less criminal behavior that believers in God which may also imply a higher level of moral behavior.

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References: [Currently being edited]

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

  1. "Religious Landscape Study," Pew Research Center, 2017, at: http://www.pewforum.org/
  2. "Most adults feel accepted by God, but lack a biblical worldview," The Barna Group, 2005-AUG-09. at: http://www.barna.org/.
  3. "Survey Explores Who Qualifies As an Evangelical," Barna Group, 2007-JAN-18, at: https://www.barna.com/
  4. Andrew Kohut, et al., "47 Nation Pew Global Attitudes Survey," Pew Research, 2007-OCT-04, Page 33, at: http://pewglobal.org/ This is a PDF file.
  5. "Worldwide, Many See Belief in God as Essential to Morality. Richer Nations Are Exception," Pew Research, 2014-MAR-13, at: http://www.pewglobal.org/
  6. "The state of the church, 2000," Barna Research Group, Ltd., at: http://www.barna.org/ [no longer online]

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Copyright © 1999 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-MAY-13
Latest update: 2017-FEB-20
Author: B.A. Robinson 

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