One-fourth of Americans believe they were once someone else, etc.

These surveys are never-ending and the results depressingly consistent. The results of The Harris Poll, which recently assessed the beliefs of over 2,000 American adults about various supernatural concerns, indicate that more people believe in the devil, hell, and angels than believe in the theory of evolution. However, the survey suggests that more people believe in evolution than in creationism.
More regarding our fun-loving citizenry:

  • 80% of adult Americans believe in God – unchanged from a 2005 Harris Poll. Large majorities of the public believe in miracles (75%), heaven (73%), angels (71%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (71%), the resurrection of Jesus (70%), the survival of the soul after death (68%), hell (62%), the Virgin birth (Jesus born of Mary (61%) and the devil (59%).
  • Slightly more people – but both are minorities – believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (47%) than in creationism (40%).
  • Sizeable minorities believe in ghosts (44%), UFOs (36%), witches (31%), astrology (31%), and reincarnation (24%).
  • Catholics are more likely than Protestants to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (by 52% to 32%), ghosts (by 57% to 41%), UFOs (by 43% to 31%), and astrology (by 40% to 28%). Protestants are slightly more likely than Catholics to believe in creationism (by 54% to 46%).
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  1. #1 by felgi on December 16, 2008 - 4:55 pm

    Yes, I think this problem is very important. Many people do it wrong, not only in USA but all in the world.

  2. #2 by chancelikely on December 16, 2008 - 6:12 pm

    I’m surprised it’s as high as 47% for evolution. Wonder how the question was framed.

  3. #3 by Julie on December 16, 2008 - 6:51 pm

    I was once someone else, too: Someone who believed she could live indefinitely in the States.
    Now I’m saving up so I can eventually spend at least 50% of my time in some more or less God-indifferent Western European nation, where churches are considered quaint, crumbling artifacts and little more.

  4. #4 by Phillip IV on December 16, 2008 - 7:27 pm

    I love how these numbers never match up properly, clearly demonstrating how utterly incoherent many peoples’ worldview must be. Note, for example, how there are more people who believe in heaven than even believe in life after death – meaning that 5% percent of Americans apparently think there is a heaven, but it’s just kinda around and doesn’t serve any real purpose. There also seem to be more people who believe in hell than in the devil, leaving us with another potentially pointless astral place…
    And some more fun: 80% of Americans believe in God, but only part of them are potentially Christian, since Christianity at the very least also requires believing in Jesus as son of God (71%) and life after death (68%). But we still have to subtract 24% believers in reincarnation from those 68% believers in life after death (they would logically have to be in that group), since almost all Christian denominations reject that concept (save the Gnostics, and they are a tiny, tiny minority) – so there could be apparently – at most – 44% Christians in the U.S.! That should provide some ammunition to counter that ‘America as a Christian nation’ argument…

  5. #5 by hopper3011 on December 17, 2008 - 5:57 am

    Philip;
    I don’t think the phrase “life after death” is equivalent to “the survival of the soul after death” – any reasonable definition of “life” requires incarnation in the physical realm, whereas survival of the soul only requires a continuity of consciousness – which may or may not be physical.
    As for the reincarnation thing, while it may not be mainstream Christian teaching, I don’t think believing in it would disqualify you from classifying yourself as Christian, it is more of an open question than an outright “rejection”.
    Kevin;
    “Believe” in evolution? Surely the point of science is that you don’t have to “believe” in it – it just is? IMO a lot of the problems occur when this difference between science and religion is forgotten – science doesn’t preclude belief in a metaphysical being, and science does not require belief in order to operate.

  6. #6 by Phillip IV on December 17, 2008 - 8:24 am

    hopper3011;
    You’re right, and that was actually what I was getting at – I think I should have formulated it the other way round:
    The problem with the “America as a Christian nation” argument is the fact that, while a majority of Americans might consider themselves Christians, their actual beliefs are so varied and mutually exclusive that you really can’t consider them members of one and the same religion in any meaningful way (meaningful especially as it concerns their positions on public policy). If you apply any (of several) internally consistent definitions of ‘Christianity’ to the beliefs outlined in polls like this one, you’ll almost always end up with only a minority of Christians (and that’s not even considering that there seems to be a large group of Americans whose religious beliefs appear to be rather vague and changeable at best).
    Fundamentalist Christians appear to be particularly prone to condemning 90% of Americans to hell for not believing in every single specific postulate of their particular denomination, and then turning right around and include even pantheists and esoteric Christians in their 80% figure for their “the vast majority of Americans are Christians” argument.

  7. #7 by Kevin Beck on December 17, 2008 - 8:27 am

    Over 50% of the U.S. population consists of women. Conclusion: America is a female nation. And we all know what that entails!

  8. #8 by JimFiore on December 17, 2008 - 9:20 am

    I don’t understand why only 36% of people believe in UFOs. Do the other 64% believe that all flying objects are clearly identifiable?
    Of course I believe in Unidentified Flying Objects! It’s just that I don’t necessarily think that they are spacecraft piloted by aliens with a particular interest in capturing rural folks and probing their orifices.

  9. #9 by Kevin Beck on December 17, 2008 - 9:28 am

    Hopper:
    “‘Believe’ in evolution? Surely the point of science is that you don’t have to “believe” in it – it just is?”
    Of course I’m with you on this; I don’t like the way “believe in” allows the notion that evolution is an unsettled scientific issue to fester. But it would be dishonest of me not to pass along the results of a survey intact–when it comes to evolution questions in such things, people are routinely asked if they “believe in” it rather than if they accept it. One might argue that the latter phraseology loads the question, but if so it doesn’t do it unfairly.

  10. #10 by hopper3011 on December 23, 2008 - 7:40 am

    Julie;
    Don’t buy the plane tickets too soon – or atleast go somewhere other than England:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/dec/23/science-evolution-creationism-education
    (If you go to the front page there are some interesting commentaries)

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