The Matter of Belief

The results of the latest Harris Poll on The Religious and Other Beliefs of Americans has been released. Bearing in mind the margins of error (a term which Harris doesn’t like), belief is up generally over 2005. This includes belief in the Deity of Jesus (72%), the Virgin Birth (60%), the Resurrection (70%), miracles (79%), angels (74%), heaven (75%) and hell (62%).

The British press were quick to express their incredulity that more Americans believe in the Devil (62%) than believe in Darwinism (42%). I don’t know why they seem so surprised. Every poll that has ever been taken shows the same thing. But the blinders of materialism are fixed firmly to the British mind. Seeing is believing. If God hasn’t conformed to a personal list of criteria, then He can’t possibly exist. A recent MORI polls indicated that 40% of British teenagers do not believe in God at all. From my own experience, I think the number is higher.

Reuters noted the Harris Poll “is the latest survey to highlight America’s deep level of religiosity, a cultural trait that sets it apart from much of the developed world.” In other words, enlightened Europeans know better. Americans are backward.

But looking at the Harris poll itself, there were a few surprises for me. I did not realise that Christians are either Catholic, Protestant, or Born-Again. These are the Harris categories of respondents. I’m guessing the latter two categories mean liberal Protestants and evangelical Protestants.

It would appear that 97% of evangelicals believe in God. This is very interesting, because I’ve never met a person who considers themselves “born-again” who doesn’t believe in God. How does that work exactly? Only 96% believe that Jesus is God or the Son of God. Once again, I’m not sure what to make of the other 4%. This drops to 89% of evangelicals who believe in the Virgin Birth.

There was also some indication of the ignorance of some American Christians about their own faith. Only 88% of evangelicals thought that all or most of the Old Testament is the Word of God. However, only 33% thought the Torah is the Word of God, even though the Jewish Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament. At the same time, 9% thought most or all of the Qur’an (or “Koran” as spelled by Harris) is the Word of God.  This is a higher percentage than amongst Catholics and liberal Protestants.