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September 12, 2006

American Beliefs

Some numbers from a large survey of Americans' religious attitudes by Gallup and Baylor University (via USA Today):

** 91.8% say they believe in God, a higher power or a cosmic force.

Not surprising. That would leave 8.2% of Americans not believing in God or the equivalent. But then the survey includes this:

** About one in nine (10.8%) respondents have no religious ties at all; previous national surveys found 14%.

Is this evidence that the religious revival is real? Or might this represent a difference in the surveys? And when asked dead on:

** only 5.2% of Americans say they are atheists.

This could be bad for book sales. The next number sounds ominous:

** 45.6% of all Americans say the federal government "should advocate Christian values."

Not clear, however, whether that means helping the poor or requiring prayer in school.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at September 12, 2006 10:51 PM


Or it might mean hating the gays.

Posted by: Todd Sayre at September 13, 2006 1:51 PM

As for the religious ties part of the survey, you should also consider that the margin of error (which ranges from 3% to 5% with most surveys) may explain most if not all of the change. From what I've seen in different media, most of the "religious revival" seems to represent people who are religiously affiliated either attending church more or moving towards a more conservative or orthodox movement. It could also reflect an aging population, with older people being generally more religious than younger. As for Christian values, I think most people outside of the religious right (who make up about 13% of the population) generally associate that phrase with the warm and fuzzy love thy neighbor kind of stuff.

Hating the gays is by far not just a Christian thing or even a religious thing. I did a paper on the origins of homophobia in college. Using the most up-to-date scientific/psychological research available, I found that homophobia is often linked to attitudes about gender, male narcissism, the threat posed to "masculinity", masculine insecurity, etc. Many seek "justification" for their homophobia in scriptural texts even if they do not otherwise regularly practice a faith. Personally, I've heard anti-gay scripture coming out of guys who wouldn't even know what the inside of a church looked like.

Posted by: Melinda Barton at September 13, 2006 2:53 PM

If by "Christian values" you mean those virtues Christianity shares with most of humanity - charity, honesty, respect for human life - then I think the government should advocate them. That's a loaded question.

Posted by: The Ridger at September 13, 2006 7:26 PM

The values we share we do not think about. The values we think about we do not know if we share.

We share a belief in falling, which is far less complex than gravity. If we roll past the edge of the bed we will fall off the bed. Is that a shared value? If we think about it, it becomes gravity and becomes debatable, but our bodies do not think about falling, they place such a high value on the belief in falling we place it before consciousness. All of our shared common values are pre-consciousness, e.g., pain and fear. It's a family tradition.

If we think about it, it becomes part of our internal, private world--only shared symbolically, which is to say without essence. Our shared values are hardwired.

Posted by: Jay Saul at September 13, 2006 8:01 PM

For all of my years in this country, I do not know what an American is, let alone what they believe.

When Ronnie won I gave up believing I had any idea what Americans thought or believed. That was a long, long time ago.

Posted by: Jay Saul at September 13, 2006 8:04 PM

Bush Tells Group He Sees a 'Third Awakening':



Posted by: Jay Saul at September 14, 2006 2:15 PM

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