A new Harris Poll confirms the common understanding that the United States is a nation steeped in the core beliefs of Christianity, all of which continue to be held by a large majority of the nation today. Spreading belief around the Invisible Cafeteria a bit, significant minorities of Americans also believe in ghosts, UFOs, witches, astrology, and in reincarnation.
The survey also found that women are more likely than men to hold both Christian and non-Christian beliefs, Republicans are more likely than Democrats and Independents to hold Christian beliefs, and the level of belief is generally highest among people without a college education and lowest among those with postgraduate degrees.
Other findings: the 82 percent of adults who believe in God include 86 percent of women and 93 percent of Republicans but only 78 percent of men, 75 percent of political independents, and 69 percent of those with postgraduate degrees.
The 73 percent of adults who believe in miracles include 79 percent of women, 83 percent of those with high school education or less and 76 percent of Republicans while 66 percent of men, 65 percent of Independents, and 50 percent of post graduates believe in such Divine Intervention.
The 70 percent of those who believe in the survival of the soul after death include 82 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of women, but only 66 percent of men. Three-quarters (76%) of those without a college degree share this belief but only 53 percent of those with postgraduate degrees believe in more than ashes to ashes after we leave this mortal coil.
The 70 percent who believe in heaven includes 76 percent of women and 64 percent of men. This falls to 60 percent of Independents and 49 percent among people with postgraduate degrees, who are just too damned educated for such childish notions it would appear. Six in ten adults believe in the devil (61%) and in hell (59%).
No wonder so many Americans think a little Intelligent Design tossed in with evolutiony theory in school can’t do any harm.
But it isn’t just Christianity – Americans aren’t particularly picky with their unscientific assumptions: forty percent of the public, including 46 percent of women and 33 percent of men believe in ghosts. One third (34%) believe in UFOs. More men (38%) than women (31%) hold Little Green Men (or whatever) near to their hearts.
Just under three in ten (28%) adults believe in witches, with slightly more men (30%) than women (27%) believing in them (I assume the belief in question here relates to the magical powers of witches, who rather undeniably exist, with or without powers).
One quarter (25%) of adults believe in astrology including 30 percent of women and 19 percent of men. One in five (21%) believe in reincarnation, the belief that they were once another person or horsefly or something.
Yes, Americans are one believing bunch of people, especially among wealthy nations (by way of contrast a 2002 Pew survey found that while 59% of people in the U.S. say religion plays a very important role in their lives, only 33% of Britains, 27% of Italians, 21% of Germans, 12% of japanese, and 11% of French said the same), which can be viewed a number of ways, depending upon your, um, beliefs:
Americans remain idealists, looking longingly up to a plain of platonic essence from which mankind — as exemplified by his finest distillation in the land of E pluribus unum — can derive Truths to which he may cling against the relentless sandstorm of situational ethics and relative values with which modern life is frought.
Or we might be a pack of superstitious dupes unwilling to wake up and smell the postmodern humanism.
An interesting and amazingly felicitous (from an economic standpoint, anyway) sociological underpinning of American life is that religion and capitalism are woven together via the Calvinistic Protestant Work Ethic, which posits that God will send a sign to those who are destined for His Elysian Fields, and the sign of personal economic success is as good a sign as any.
What a country.