A Land So Religious That Even Unbelievers Believe takes

Given the amount of hellish behavior on display, one would expect belief in Satan to be nearly universal. Not so, indicates a new Harris Poll. While 94 percent of adults said they believe in God, just 72 percent gave the devil his due. A similar gap emerged regarding belief in heaven (89 percent) and hell (73 percent). As you can see from the chart, those expecting to land in heaven outnumber the admittedly hellbound by a margin of 75 to one. If Americans are an exceptionally religious people, perhaps it’s because so many think it’ll be an eternally good deal for them. It’s no surprise that most self-described Christians believe in such doctrinal tenets as the Virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus, miracles and the survival of souls after death. What struck Harris Poll chairman Humphrey Taylor is that such beliefs are shared by large numbers of non-Christians—for instance, the 42 percent who give credence to the resurrection and the 43 percent who believe in the Virgin birth. As Taylor puts it, with mock-indignation, “What kind of non-Christians are these?” His analysis of the data concludes that Americans are, “by the standards of most other Western industrial countries, remarkably religious.” And he says this tendency “shows no sign of eroding.” Unlike the believers of earlier times, though, people today seem to feel they can embrace the bits of doctrine that suit their fancy and dispense with the rest. One gets a hint of that phenomenon in the finding that 41 percent of Christians also believe in astrology (as do 48 percent of non-Christians). Finally, a note of interest to those of you deciding on a Halloween costume: 39 percent of adults said they believe in ghosts.