Americans Remain Very Religious, but Not Necessarily in Conventional Ways
Many feel that they do not have to follow the strict teachings of their religion and
that religions have unnecessary rules and responsibilities
GALLUP NEWS SERVICE
A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that Americans remain intensely religious in many conventional ways, but at the same time embrace nontraditional approaches to religion.
Gallup has been tracking Americans' religious attitudes and behavior for decades. As has been the case for many years, Gallup's basic measures of religious attitudes and behavior continue to show remarkably high levels of religiosity. Some of the key trends, as updated in the latest poll conducted December 9-12 survey, are as follows:
At the same time, the responses to several new questions about religion included in the poll suggest that some Americans approach religion in less than conventional ways.
One question asked Americans if they would define themselves as religious, or as "spiritual, but not religious." Only 54% of the public choose the straight "religious" label, while 30% say they would define themselves as "spiritual, but not religious." Even 20% of those who say that religion is very important in their daily lives define themselves as spiritual but not religious.
The results of the survey also suggest that despite their outward affiliation with a religion and frequent church attendance, less than half of Americans live their daily lives strictly by the code or teachings of their religious faith. While 48% say that they pay more attention "to God and religious teachings" in deciding how to conduct their lives, almost as many, 45%, say that they pay more attention to their "own views and the views of others." Although those who say that religion is very important in their lives are most likely to pay more attention to God and religious teaching, a quarter rely more on their own views, or others' views. Groups that are most likely to pay more attention to their own views than God's include men, younger Americans (including 65% of those 18-29), and those living on either coast.
Along the same lines, about half of Americans say that religions have unnecessary rules and responsibilities. Catholics are more likely than Protestants to have this belief, by a 59% to 46% margin.
There is clear evidence from the survey results that many Americans -- although personally devout -- don't view their religion as the only true path to God. Seventy-five percent say that there is a religion "other than their own that offers a true path to God," and of that number a substantial majority believe that this other path to God is equally as good as their own.
Additionally, although the vast majority of Americans say that there will come a day when God judges people and decides whether they will go to heaven or hell, the poll finds that 44% believe that a good person will go to heaven, whether or not he or she believes in God.
Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your beliefs: you are religious, you are spiritual but not religious, or you are neither?
Which of the following statements comes closest to your belief about God: you believe in God, you don't believe in God, but you do believe in a universal spirit or higher power, or you don't believe in either?
Which of the following statements comes closest to the way you decide how to conduct your life: you pay more attention to God and religious teachings or you pay more attention to your own views and views of others? [ROTATED]
Do you think there is any religion other than your own that offers a true path to God? [BASED ON -- 945 -- AMERICANS WITH A RELIGIOUS PREFERENCE; ± 4 PCT PTS]
(If Yes) Do you think your religion is the best path to God, or are others equally good? [BASED ON -- 711 -- AMERICANS WHO BELIEVE OTHER RELIGIONS OFFER PATH TO GOD; ± 4 PCT PTS]
Next, as I read a list of statements about religion, please say whether you agree or disagree with each one. [Random Order]