What Do Americans Believe?

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By Lillian Kwon, Christian Post Reporter
October 27, 2006|9:17 am

As the nation welcomed its 300th million American, Time Magazine affirmed the United States to be overwhelmingly a nation of believers – just with different beliefs.

More than 85 percent of Americans follow a Christian faith, according to Time's special issue ''America by the Numbers,'' but the makeup of believers is dozens of denominations and diverse beliefs in some of the most basic questions.

Backing reports that Evangelicals are among the fastest-growing segments of Christianity, the Time article reported the largest segment of believers is evangelical Protestant, which make up 34 percent of Americans.

In the past four decades, evangelical Christians in the West have increased from 50 million to about 75 million, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. And in the rest of the world, the number shot up from 25 million to 325 million.

Most evangelicals live in the South and Southeast regions of the nation. Mainline Protestants, who make up 22 percent of the nation, are more collected in the Central and North Central parts of the nation.

The third largest segment of believers is Roman Catholic (21 percent) and they are scattered throughout the West, North Central, South Central and Northeast regions of the states.

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One of the most basic questions Christians diverge on is their viewpoint of God and His role in the world.

According to the report, 31 percent believe in an “Authoritarian God” who is deeply involved in daily life and world events, is angry at sin and can punish the unfaithful or ungodly; 23 percent believe in a “Benevolent God” who is deeply involved in daily life and world events but is mainly a positive force reluctant to punish; 16 percent believe in a “Critical God” who does not really interact with the world but is unhappy with its current state and will exact divine justice; and 24 percent believe in a “Distant God” who does not interact with the world and is not angry. God is more of a cosmic force that set the laws of nature in motion.

Overall, 66 percent of Americans have no doubts that God exists while 11 percent believe in God but have some doubts; 14 percent believe in a higher power or cosmic force; and 5 percent don't believe in anything beyond the physical world.

On a more general note, 9 out of 10 Americans think there's something bigger out there.

The diverse beliefs among Christians have also shaped politics differently for each believer, prioritizing certain issues over others.

The majority of those who believe in an Authoritarian God agreed that the government should allow prayer in school (91 percent), expand authority to fight terrorism (76 percent), and protect the environment better (76 percent). For those who see God as a more positive force, 81 percent agreed that the government should protect the environment better, 79 percent said the government should allow prayer in school, and 63 percent said it should expand authority to fight terrorism. Similar statistics were seen among the believers who see God as a critical one. Those who believe in a Distant God agreed largely on the environment but also agreed that the government should distribute wealth more evenly.

Time additionally measured Americans on weird beliefs including their perception of UFOs and Bigfoot. The report showed that 25 percent agree some UFOs are probably spaceships from other worlds and 18 percent agreed that creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster will one day be discovered. Also, 41 percent agree that ancient advanced civilizations, like Atlantis, once existed, and 37 percent agree that places can be haunted.

More women (18 percent) than men (8 percent) agree that astrologers, palm readers, tarot-card readers, fortune tellers and psychics can foresee the future.

 

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