Half of God-fearing Americans accepting of gays

Ann Turner June 24, 2008
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Americans overwhelmingly believe in the existence of God or some kind of ‘universal spirit’, according to a new U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

Ninety-two percent of those participating in the survey said they believe in a higher power of some kind.

Of the over 35,000 Americans interviewed, 50 percent also stated they believe gays and lesbians should be accepted by society at large.

In the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey released this week by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a hefty majority of Americans responding to the survey indicated their believe in some form of a higher being.

Ninety-two percent of those surveyed said they believed in God or a ‘universal spirit’, though only 70 percent stated they were “absolutely certain” about it.

The survey interviewed more than 35,000 Americans and concluded in late 2007.

Seventy percent of respondents indicated that they felt religions other than their own were equally valid in providing a path to ‘eternal life’.

Only among Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses did the majority of participants believe their religion was the only “one true faith,” according to the survey.

Among Evangelical Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, mainstream Protestants, Jews and Catholics, the majority of survey interviewees stated they believed other religions were as likely as their own to be a path to salvation.

Though 63 percent of Americans believe their religion’s sacred texts are the literal word of God, a majority of survey respondents, 68 percent, stated they felt there was “more than one true way” to interpret those texts.

Again, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons were the holdouts in this category, with the majority of respondents in those two faiths believing there is only one true way to interpret the teachings of their religion.

When asked whether homosexuality is a way of life that “should be accepted by society or “should be discouraged by society,” 50 percent of those interviewed said they believe gays and lesbians should be accepted.

Forty percent of respondents said they felt homosexuality should be discouraged in society, while five percent said neither or both and 5 percent said they don’t know or refused to answer.

Among the groups most accepting of homosexuals were Jews (79 percent), Buddhists (82 percent) and those of “other faiths” (84 percent) or “unaffiliated” (71 percent).

Those groups who most believe homosexuality should be “discouraged” were Jehovah’s Witnesses (76 percent), Mormons (68 percent), Evangelical Churches (64 percent) and Muslims (61 percent).

Unsurprisingly, those who held more traditional religious views and attended church more regularly tended to hold more conservative political views.

“One of the realities of politics in the United States today is that people who regularly attend worship services and hold traditional religious views are much more likely to hold conservative political views,” the Pew report said.

“This pattern holds across a variety of religious traditions.”

Among those surveyed, 32 percent declared as Democrats, 26 percent as Republicans.

Fifteen percent identified as leaning Democrat and 10 percent as leaning Republican.

Ten percent stated themselves as Independent, while eight percent identified as neither Republican nor Democrat or refused to choose a party.

The largest religious group to identify as Republicans was Mormons, while the largest religious group to identify as Democrats was Historically Black Churches.

© 2008; All Rights Reserved

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