December 18, 2013

God Belief Declining in the U.S.

Jesus Resurrection 1778
Jesus Resurrection 1778 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The results of a new poll from Harris Interactive were released a couple days ago with a title that is sure to grab your attention: Americans' Belief in God, Miracles and Heaven Declines. The poll is based on 2,250 adults surveyed between November 13 and 18, 2013. Here are a few of the highlights that stood out to me:
  • 74% of U.S. adults report god-belief; however, this number has dropped from 82% in previous polls conducted in 2005, 2007, and 2009.
  • Belief in miracles, heaven, the resurrection of Jesus, the survival of the soul after death, hell, the Virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus all showed drops when compared to 2005 data.
  • Belief in evolution has increased from 42% in 2005 to 47% in 2013.
While this certainly looks like progress, it also looks like fairly small progress in the sense that the percentages are not vastly different. Still, the numbers at least appear to be heading in the right direction.

Some of the other numbers reported, while still far too high for a modern nation, were not as high as I feared they might be:
  • 42% believe in ghosts.
  • 36% believe in creationism.
  • 36% believe in UFOs.
  • 29% believe in astrology.
  • 26% believe in witches.
  • 24% believe in reincarnation.
Perhaps the best and least surprising part of the results was what they said about our young people.
Echo Boomers are less likely than their counterparts in all older generations to express belief in God (64% Echo Boomers, 75% Gen Xers, 81% Baby Boomers, 83% Matures), miracles (65%, 74%, 76% and 78%, respectively), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (58%, 67%, 74% and 75%, respectively) and angels (59%, 71%, 73% and 68%, respectively.
Our young people appear to be far less likely to believe this stuff, and that appears to be good news for the future. Perhaps religion will have less of a hold on the minds of future generations.

I was also happy to see that 23% of those surveyed identified themselves as "not at all" religious. This is almost double the 12% found in 2007. I realize that few of these people would identify themselves as atheists, but I have to think that the growth in this segment suggests that it may be possible to help more do so in the near future. Those interested in helping more people come to identify themselves as atheists can start with this segment of the population.

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