Thursday, September 21, 2006

Survey says...

While trolling around on the internet today, I happened upon a Harris Poll from 2003 that provided some interesting food for thought. It asked 2,201 American adults whether they believed in a long list of paranormal phenomena including God, the existence of the soul after death, and ghosts. The 90% of American adults who believe in God (at least as of 2003) is not that shocking to me, but what is more interesting is the fact that other occult beliefs, including ones closely related to Christianity, were not quite so widespread.

For example, while 90% of those polled believe in God, only 84% believe in the survival of the soul after death and only 82% believe in Heaven. Likewise, a mere 77% believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, though 80% believe in his resurrection. Some of this accounted for by non-Christian respondents, but even respondents who self-identified as "Christian" and totalled a whopping 99% belief in God didn't always belief in the survival of the soul, the resurrection, or the virgin birth. (92%, 96%, and 93% respectively.)

Also interesting, moreso in fact, is what the data shows when age is taken into account. Only 84% of 18-24 year olds reported a belief in God, and this then hoever around 90% for everything 30 and up, finally reaching 95% for those aged 65 and up. Is it perhaps that the elderly are more superstitious than the young? That would seem to be the conventional wisdom, but we see that the eldest group in the survey is far less likely than the youngest to believe in things like ghosts (27% as opposed to 58%) or astrology (17% instead of 37%). In fact, it is 25-29 year olds that rank the highest in belief of ghosts and astrology (65% and 43%), which is extremely strange because this age group was the least likely (82%) to believe in God.

Perhaps this simply means that our culture is slowly beginning to trade one set of superstitions for another. Maybe the day will come when people will trade "heaven" for "the other side" and "guardian angels" for "spirit guides" in their common parlance. Naturally this one survey can't predict that, but it certainly gives one something to think about.

It is also worth noting that the percentage of believers in God went down by 8% when a similar survey was given out in 2005, but the sampling size of the 2005 survey was less than half of the 2003 survey and the data was not broken down in to age categories, which is why I used the 2003 data when writing this. The 2005 survey did reveal, however, that self -identified Democrats are 11% less likely to believe in God and 9% more likely to believe that earth has been visited by UFOs than are Republicans. (Sadly the UFO question wasn't asked on the 2003 survey.)
The 2003 survey is available here and the 2005 survey here.

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