Survey researchers like me are a bit annoying because we ask you to respond to questions about something as big as faith—with numbers. In this case, how would you answer this question on a 10-point scale? (10 is very important; 1 is very unimportant. Jot down your answer before reading more, today.)
How important is God in your life?
Before I tell you how Americans answer that question, here’s how people from different nations answer. Only 15% of the Dutch give God a 9 or 10. Germans are the same. A higher percentage of our Canadian neighbors give God a 9 or 10, but still less than a majority (46%).
What about Americans? About two-thirds say 9 or 10, and this figure has not changed much over the decades. Belief in God is a core American value, according to the definition of “core” that I gave yesterday: a strongly and widely held principle, stable over time, with only minor differences across age groups, gender, political ideology, and so forth.
Of course, there are lots of disagreements about how this core belief in God is enacted and played out in American life. Even small differences in doctrine can become big conflicts. Still—isn’t it important to remember that belief in God is a value that unites us?
Americans’ strong beliefs in God and religion, despite disputes, have always been defining American characteristics. The tie between religion and nation goes back to the founders.
The founders were an eclectic religious group, says historian John Fea in his new book, “Was America Founded As a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction.” Some of the founders were devout Christians; others were not. But, “if there was one universal idea that all the founders believed about the relationship between religion and the new nation, it was that religion was necessary in order to sustain an ordered and virtuous republic.”
Do you agree?
Is belief in God essential to our republic?
Please Comment below.
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(Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.)