More than nine out of ten Americans believe in God, according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Over 35,000 Americans were interviewed, in English or Spanish, answering a wide range of questions about religious beliefs and practices. Ninety-two percent said they believe in God or a universal spirit and 75 percent said that they pray at least once a week.
America has always been a nation of believers. Belief in God has not wavered over time. For more than 60 years, Gallup surveys show that the proportion of Americans who say they believe in God has never been lower than 90 percent.
As Americans, our beliefs in God make us — unusual in the world. In most of Western Europe, the level of believers is generally much lower, according to the World Values Surveys. In Great Britain, for example, only 61 percent say they believe in God. The number is even lower in France, Sweden and the Netherlands. A few nations, like Ireland, Northern Ireland and Italy are close to the U.S. but these are exceptions.
Other nations of believers — where 90 percent or more believe in God — include places that we typically don’t think of as comparable to the U.S., such as India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Peru, Mexico, the Philippines, and other traditional societies.
America is also unusual in the vast diversity of religious affiliations, beliefs, and practices, as documented in the new Pew study. Moreover, these beliefs are not dogmatic. Among Americans who profess a religious affiliation, 70 percent say that many faiths can lead to eternal life, not just their own.
Here’s an interesting question!
Academics who study American culture are inveterate list makers of American values. It has always surprised me that “religion” is rarely, if ever, included on these lists of values. Should it be?
Are religion and belief in God American values?
Care to read more?
ReadTheSpirit reported on the Pew research and provides helpful links for further information.
National Public Radio also has posted an interview with one of the Pew study’s chief scholars, Dr. John Green.
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