A new survey conducted by LifeWay Research finds that 44 percent of Americans believe homosexuality is a sin. Meanwhile, 43 percent believe it is not, and 13 percent are not sure.
The survey, conducted among a random sampling of 2,144 adult Americans, asked the question: ""Do you believe homosexual behavior is a sin?" Results indicate that gender, education, church attendance, and religious affiliation affect one's views.
According to the survey, 47 percent of men believe homosexuality is a sin while 40 percent of women believe the same.
Seventy-one percent of those who attend a church service once weekly or more believe it is a sin, compared to a mere 8 percent who never attend a church service.
Thirty-five percent of those with a college degree consider homosexuality to be a sin, compared to 49 percent who do not have a college degree.
Among evangelical, fundamentalist or born again Christians, 82 percent say homosexuality is a sin while only 14 percent say it is not a sin. This is compared to the 29 percent of those from other religions who say homosexuality is sinful.
One possible weakness of the survey is one's definition of "sin." As Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, said in a statement, "When asking questions like this to a general sampling of the population, it is important to note that people's definition of 'sin' may differ based upon their religious background and beliefs."
"We intentionally used the word, but also know it means different things to different people," McConnell said, noting that Gallup's 2011 Values and Beliefs poll approached the same subject of homosexuality, but instead substituted the question of sin for whether they considered homosexuality to be "morally acceptable."
"While we find 44 percent believe homosexuality is a 'sin,' Gallup reports 56 percent of Americans consider gay and lesbian relations morally acceptable," McConnell said.
The online dictionary defines sin as a "transgression of divine law."
McConnell concludes that one's beliefs on homosexuality as sin are most likely rooted in Scripture: "It likely reflects different beliefs about Scripture and different beliefs about who defines sin," he added.
The survey also asked the question "If you were considering visiting or joining a church, would knowing that the church taught that homosexual behavior was sinful impact your decision positively or negatively or have no impact?"
Twenty-six percent of Americans said it would have a positive impact, compared to 36 percent saying it would have a negative impact.
Naturally, those who attend church services regularly are far less likely (21 percent) to feel negatively about their church teaching homosexuality as a sin, compared to those who don't attend church. Seventy-two percent of the latter group says a church's teaching of homosexuality as a sin would have a negative effect on their decision to join said church.
The topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage has remained a hot button issue in the United States, but has become an even more heightened issue as of May 9, when President Barack Obama officially stated that he approves of same-sex marriage.
In his ABC interview on May 9, Obama said he feels Americans should abide by the "Golden Rule" when it comes to gay marriage, meaning "treat others as you would want to be treated."
Prominent Christian leaders are rebuking Obama's claims, arguing that although Jesus does speak of the "Golden Rule" in the Bible, this does not overshadow or cancel out Jesus's clear definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.
"The Golden Rule is in the Bible but it cannot be used to contradict God's marriage pattern reaffirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-5," the Rev. Joel Hunter of Northland church, who is often referred to as President Barack Obama's spiritual adviser, told The Christian Post.
The LifeWay survey was taken by questioning 2,144 adult Americans through an online panel from Sept. 23-26, 2011.
LifeWay Research is a Christian research company based in Nashville, Tenn.