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Survey Measures Thoughts on Religion

October 12, 2002|From Times Wire Reports

In a look at Americans' beliefs, a new survey shows that 44% think the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon express the same spiritual truths.

The survey by the Barna Research Group also found that three-quarters of American adults believe in the Trinity, agree that "every person has a soul that will live forever, either in God's presence or absence," and reject the idea that only well-trained theological scholars can correctly interpret the Bible.

Though 44% of those surveyed said "the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths," 38% disagreed.

Fifty-one percent of Americans agree that "praying to deceased saints can have a positive effect in a person's life" and 39% disagreed. But the difference of opinion is more striking between Protestants and Catholics, with 80% of Catholics agreeing, compared with 41% of Protestants. Sixty percent of Latinos agree with the statement.

Thirty-five percent of American adults believe it is "possible to communicate with others after they die," compared with 55% who dispute that idea

Fifty-nine percent of those polled said Satan, or the devil, is not a living being but rather a symbol of evil, compared with 34% who believe Satan exists.

Americans are divided over whether Jesus sinned when he lived on Earth, with 42% saying he did and 50% saying he did not.

Respondents also were divided about whether a person who "is generally good or does enough good things for others" while on Earth will earn a place in heaven. Fifty percent agreed and 42% disagreed.

Asked whether "the Bible does not specifically condemn homosexuality," 27% agreed and 53% disagreed.

George Barna, president of the Ventura-based marketing research firm, said the results reflect an increasing inclusiveness about faith among many Americans.

"Christians have increasingly been adopting spiritual views that come from Islam, Wicca, secular humanism, the Eastern religions and other sources," he said in a statement.

"Because we remain a largely Bible-illiterate society, few are alarmed [by] or even aware of the slide toward syncretism--a belief system that blindly combines beliefs from many different faith perspectives."

The results are based on a telephone survey of 630 American adults in August and had a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

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