The Good News is that Non Belief is Growing

The article below provides the results of a comprehensive survey done by the Harris group on the state of belief in the United States. The US is such an interesting place. It’s the only developed nation that is still highly religious. As this poll demonstrates, dogmatic beliefs of all kinds are still abundant. But, from my perspective, the good news is that non-belief is growing. Indeed, the number of proclaimed not-at-all-religious is up to 15%. This is consistent with other polls that have shown a steady growth in the number of atheist/agnostic/naturalist individuals in the States.

Here’s the story:

More Americans Believe in the Devil, Hell and Angels than in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

Nearly 25% of Americans Believe They Were Once another Person

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – December 10, 2008 – That very large majorities of the American public believe in God, miracles, the survival of the soul after death, 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 the belief that they themselves were once other people. Overall, more people believe in the devil, hell and angels than believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll®, a new nationwide survey of 2,126 U.S. adults surveyed online between November 10 and 17, 2008 by Harris Interactive®.

Some of the interesting findings in this new Harris Poll include:

* 80% of adult Americans believe in God – unchanged since the last time we asked the question in 2005. Large majorities of the public believe in miracles (75%), heaven (73%), angels (71%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (71%), the resurrection of Jesus (70%), the survival of the soul after death (68%), hell (62%), the Virgin birth (Jesus born of Mary (61%) and the devil (59%).
* Slightly more people – but both are minorities – believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (47%) than in creationism (40%).
* Sizeable minorities believe in ghosts (44%), UFOs (36%), witches (31%), astrology (31%), and reincarnation (24%).

Differences between Catholics and Protestants

There are no significant differences between the large percentages of Catholics and Protestants who believe in God, miracles, heaven and hell, that Jesus is the Son of God, angels, the resurrection of Jesus, the survival of the soul after death, the Virgin birth and the devil.

However, Catholics are more likely than Protestants to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (by 52% to 32%), ghosts (by 57% to 41%), UFOs (by 43% to 31%), and astrology (by 40% to 28%). Protestants are slightly more likely than Catholics to believe in creationism (by 54% to 46%).

Which Religious Texts Are the “Word of God”

Slender majorities of all adults believe that all or most of the Old Testament (55%) and the New Testament (54%) are the “Word of God.” However, only about a third of all adults (37% and 36%) believe that all of these texts are the word of God.

Interestingly, only 26% 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. Presumably many people do not know this.

Religiosity and Religious Practice

Less than a quarter of Americans describe themselves are “very religious.” However, a large majority (68%) describe themselves as either very (23%) or somewhat (45%) religious.

A quarter (27%) of adult Americans claim that they attend church once a week or more often, compared with 36% who say they attend less than once a year or never (18% each).

A Note on the Methodology Used and How It Affects the Results

Other research has shown that when replying to a question administered impersonally by a computer, people are less likely to say they believe in God, or attend Church services when they really don’t. It is generally believed that surveys conducted by 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 more honest and therefore more accurate.

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Methodology

This Harris Poll® was conducted online within the United States between November 10 and 17, 2008 among 2,126 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Good News is that Non Belief is Growing

  1. theformerfundie

    This is actually me, the Former Fundie, just testing to see if the comments section works okay.

    Love your blog!

    : )

    TFF

  2. FC

    The question that comes to mind is : what is the explanation for this very strong attachment until today to religion in the US ? ?

    FC

    • theformerfundie

      That is a very good question. I have just read an amazing article that deals with that very issue. It’s in the latest issue of Free Inquiry magazine. The article is by Gregory S. Paul and is called “The Big Religion Questions Finally Solved.” Best explanation of America’s religiosity that I have read.

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