Americans Believe In Miracles, Heaven, Power Of Prayer

Faith & Belief

Faith & Belief

Americans Believe In Miracles, Heaven, Power Of Prayer
Jun 23, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Around three-quarters of Americans believe in miracles, more Americans believe in heaven than in hell, and nearly six in 10 pray every day, a report based on a survey of 35,000 US adults showed Monday.

Of those who pray regularly, around a third — 31 percent — say God answers their prayers at least once a month, and one in five Americans said they receive direct answers to prayer requests at least once a week, the report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said.

Seventy-four percent of those surveyed for the report, called the US Religious Landscape Survey, said they believed in heaven as a place where people who have led good lives are rewarded, while only around six in 10 believed in hell, where unrepentant evil-doers languish in eternal punishment.

The report reflected the changing face of the US religious landscape and also the diversity of belief among Americans, Pew researchers said.

“Once upon a time, belief in heaven and hell were very closely related and in many people’s views were two sides of the same coin,” John Greene, a senior research fellow at Pew, told a telephone news conference.

“That does not seem to be the case any more. Many more people believe in heaven than believe in hell,” he said, surmising that Americans today view God as “someone who is merciful, generous and forgiving” rather than as “a judge who punishes people.”

Nearly eight in 10 American adults (79 percent) believe that miracles occur, the survey, conducted between May and August last year, showed.

But perhaps most striking in the report was the near unanimous belief in God, held by more than nine out of 10 Americans.

“While this survey finds that more than nine in 10 Americans believe in the existence of God or a universal spirit, it also shows that there are considerable differences in the nature of this belief,” Pew research fellow Greg Smith said.

“Six in 10 adults believe God is a person with whom people can have a relationship, but one in four, including about half of Jews and Hindus, see God as an impersonal force,” he said.

Oddly, one in five of those who identified themselves as atheists in the survey said they believe in God.

“It may very well be that they don’t really know what atheist means. It sounds good so they answered it; we call that measurement error,” Greene said.

“But this also shows us the complicated way that people think about their faith. Many people who identify as atheists may not be telling us they don’t believe in God, but that they don’t like organized religion,” he said.

“In addition to having atheists who say they believe in God, we have people who say they are very committed to a religious tradition but don’t believe in God,” he added.

“There is a lot of complexity in American religion,” Greene summarized.

The survey also showed that religious affiliation tends to translate into social and political leanings.

“Mormons and members of evangelical churches tend to be more conservative in their political ideology, while Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and atheists tend to be more politically liberal than the population overall,” the report says.

As the United States gears up to elect a new president in November, that translates to the simple fact that “there are votes to be had by the Democratic and Republican candidates by making appeals to religious groups,” said Greene.

Pew issued a first report, based on information gathered in the survey, in February this year.

That report, which focussed on the impact of immigrant flows on the religious landscape of the United States, predicted that Protestants would no longer be in the majority in the United States by the middle of this century.

“While native-born Protestants outnumber Catholics by two to one, among immigrants, Catholics outnumber Protestants by the same ratio,” Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said when the first report was released.

“So even though immigration is by and large confirming the Christian social nature of the American people, it is helping to tilt the balance towards Catholicism,” he said.


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