Highly religious Americans are almost evenly split on whether it is best to live the best possible personally religious life or it is also necessary to spread their beliefs, a recent Gallup Poll found.
Polls conducted last fall found that the largest percentage of Americans label themselves as "somewhat religious" (39 percent). Those who classify themselves as "extremely" or "very religious" constituted 37 percent of polled Americans. And 23 percent say they are "not too religious" or "not religious at all."
Among the highly religious people, 48 percent say it is sufficient to live the best possible personal life based on their religious beliefs and principles without having to spread their faith. An earlier study by the Barna Research Group had found similar figures with 46 percent of those who claim to be evangelicals being less likely to say they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others.
Still, the Gallup Poll found that 49 percent believe it is necessary to attempt to spread their beliefs and principles to other people.
More than half of highly religious Americans who believe it is necessary to spread beliefs to others say this is best accomplished by converting others to one's religion, which the Gallup report labeled as the traditional evangelical view. Only 31 percent say the best way to spread their religion is by changing aspects of society. The latter portion makes up only 6 percent of all American adults.
The bottom line, the report stated, is that the majority of highly religious Americans believe that they do not need to change the society around them to conform to their religious beliefs, but instead can live the best possible personal religious life, or focus on one-on-one conversion.
The poll comes amid the 2008 presidential campaigns. A key to Republican successes, the Gallup Poll noted, was the highly religious voters, who were particularly concerned for and focused on changing societal elements in such areas as abortion, same-sex "marriage," and stem cell research using embryos. The recent poll, however, indicated little interest in changing society on the basis of their religious beliefs.
Data is based on telephone interviews with 2,013 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in September and November 2006.