March 31, 2007
America, twinned with Turkey
A belief in God and an identification with an organized religion are widespread throughout the country, according to the latest Newsweek poll. Nine in 10 (91 per-
cent) of American adults say they believe in God and almost as many (87 per-
cent) say they identify with a specific religion. Christians far outnumber members of any other faith in the country, with 82 percent of the poll’s respondents identi-
fying themselves as such. Another 5 percent say they follow a non-Christian faith, such as Judaism or Islam. Nearly half (48 percent) of the public rejects the scientific theory of evolution; one-third (34 percent) of college graduates say they accept the Biblical account of creation as fact. Sev-
enty-three percent of Evangelical Protestants say they believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years; 39 percent of non-Evangelical Protestants and 41 percent of Catholics agree with that view.
Although one in ten (10 percent) of Americans identify themselves as having “no religion,” only six percent said they don’t believe in a God at all. Just 3 percent of the public self-identifies as atheist, suggesting that the term may carry some stigma. Still, the poll suggests that the public’s tolerance of this small minority has increased in recent years. Nearly half (47 percent) of the respondents felt the country is more accepting of atheists today that it used to be and slightly more (49 percent) reported personally knowing an atheist. Those numbers are higher among respondents under 30 years old, 62 percent of whom report knowing an atheist (compared to just 43 percent of those 50 and older). Sixty-one percent of the under-30 cohort view society as more accepting of atheists (compared to 40 percent of the Americans 50 and older).
Still, it is unlikely that a political candidate would serve him or herself well by declaring their atheism. Six in ten (62 percent) registered voters say they would not vote for a candidate who is an atheist. Majorities of each major party — 78 percent of Repulicans and 60 percent of Democrats — rule out such an option. Just under half (45 percent) of registered independents would not vote for an atheist. Still, more than a third (36 percent) of Americans think the influence of organized religion on American politics has increased in recent years. But the public is still split over whether religion has too much (32 percent) or too little (31 percent) influence on American politics. Democrats tend to fall in the “too much” camp (42 percent of them, as opposed to 29 percent who see too little influence) as Republicans take the opposite view (42 percent too little; 14 percent too much). In the poll, 68 percent of respondents said they believed someone could be moral and an atheist, compared to 26 percent who said it was not possible.
Wow, moral and an atheist. Inconceivable.
And equally inconceivable that this country has fallen so far.
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