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Friday, December 7, 2007


The Religious and Other Beliefs of Americans

More People Believe in the Devil, Hell, and Angels Than Believe in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--That very large majorities of the American public believe in God, miracles, the survival of the soul after death, heaven, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Virgin Birth will come as no great surprise. What may be more surprising is that substantial minorities believe in ghosts, UFOs, witches, astrology, and reincarnation – the belief that they themselves were once another people. More than six in ten believe in hell and the devil. Overall, more people believe in the Devil, Hell and angels than believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution.

These are some of the findings of a Harris Poll of 2,455 U.S. adults conducted online by Harris Interactive® between November 7 and 13, 2007.

Interesting findings in this new Harris Poll include:

* 82 percent of adult Americans believe in God – unchanged since the question was last asked in 2005;
* Large majorities of the public believe in miracles (79%), heaven (75%), angels (74%), that Jesus is God or the son of God (72%), the resurrection of Jesus (70%), the survival of the soul after death (69%), hell (62%), the devil (62%), and the virgin birth (Jesus born of Mary) (60%);
* Roughly equal numbers – both minorities - believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (42%) and creationism (39%);
* Sizeable minorities believe in ghosts (41%), UFOs (35%), witches (31%), astrology (29%) and reincarnation (21%);
* While many of these numbers for people who hold these beliefs are the same or little changed from 2005, the overall trend is upwards with slightly more people believing in miracles, angels and witches than did so two years ago.

Differences in Beliefs Among Major Religious Groups

Born-again Christians are more likely to believe in the traditional elements of Christianity than are Catholics or Protestants. For example, 95 percent believe in miracles, compared to 87 percent and 89 percent among Catholics and Protestants. Fully 92 percent of born-again Christians believe in Hell, compared to 75 percent of Catholics and 78 percent of Protestants.

On the other hand only 16 percent of born-again Christians, compared to 43 percent of Catholics and 30 percent of Protestants, believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution. And fully 60 percent of born-again Christians, but only 43 percent of Catholics, believe in creationism. Born-again Christians are also more likely to believe in witches. Catholics are more likely to believe in astrology and re-incarnation.

Which Religious Texts are the “Word of God”

Slender majorities believe that all or some of the Old Testament (53%) and the New Testament (52%) are the “Word of God”. However, only about a third of all adults (35% and 33%) believe that all of these texts are the word of God.

Interestingly, only 23 percent of all adults believe that the Torah is the word of God, even though it is the same as the first five books of the Old Testament. Born-again Christians are much more likely to think the Old and New Testament are all or mostly the word of God (88% and 86% respectively) than are Catholics (55% and 54%).

Religiosity and Religious Practice

One in five Americans describe themselves as “very religious”. However, a large majority (70%) describe themselves as either very (21%) or somewhat (49%) religious. This rises to 93 percent of born-again Christians, 82 percent of Catholics and 84 percent of Protestants.

Born-again Christians are also more likely to say that they attend Church every week (50%) than are Catholics (30%) and Protestants (34%).

A quarter (25%) of adult Americans claim that they attend Church once a week or more often, compared with 40 percent who say they attend once a year or less often.

A Note on the Methodology Used and its Affect

Other research has shown that people are less likely to say they believe in God, or attend Church services, when replying to a question administered impersonally by a computer, as they did in this online survey, than when replying to an interviewer. It is generally believed that the replies given to live interviewers tend to exaggerate the numbers of people who report the socially-desirable, or less embarrassing, behavior and that the replies given to an online survey such as this, are therefore more accurate.

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