Nearly 9 in 10 Americans believe miracles have occurred in the past and can still occur today, according to a new national survey.
While only 48 percent of those surveyed by N.J.-based HCD Research said miracle stories presented in religious texts should be taken as literally true, 86 percent said they believe that miracles have occurred in the past and 85 percent believe that they can occur today.
The new survey also found a slight majority (56 percent) of Americans claimed to have seen situations and circumstances with themselves, friends and/or family members which they consider to be "miraculous" or "unexplainable by science."
"Modern people believe in miracles, but only more subtle ones," commented the Rev. John McNeil, a Methodist minister and a blogger for HCD Research's website MediaCurves.com.
"Perhaps many of us believe in divine interventions about attitudes and other psychological states, but not in large changes of matter," he explained Tuesday – one day after the survey's results were released. "Thus prayers for a friend to have hope or courage seem plausible, but prayers for a family member to re-grow a limb or be cured of a fast-progressing fatal illness seem pointless."
When asked how much of the outcome of medical or surgical treatment they believe is related to forces totally outside of human control, 55 percent of responders said either very little or none of the outcome should be attributed to non-human forces such as the supernatural or "acts of God." Only 45 percent said either all or most of medical outcomes are influenced by non-human forces.
Still, 76 percent of responders said they pray for individual friends and family members and 71 percent encourage family and friends to pray.
"It looks like most of us are clinging to a hope that a benevolent force beyond nature can intervene for our good and the good of our loved ones," McNeil commented.
The new survey, conducted Dec. 6-8, was part of an effort to obtain Americans' perceptions of faith, prayer and miracles in both the medical world as well as their everyday lives.
Those surveyed represent American consumers from Christian (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian and other), Jewish (Orthodox Jewish, Conservative Jewish, Reform Jewish and Culturally Jewish), Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Scientologist, Islamic, Shinto, Sikh, and other religious traditions as well as those with no religious traditions.
On the Web:
Detailed results of the survey at www.mediacurves.com.