A new Pew Research Center survey has some interesting takeaways. While the majority of Americans say they believe in a higher power, what they are talking about isn’t necessarily God “as described in the Bible.”
Pew’s studies in recent years have shown a decline in the number of Americans who believe in God with absolute certainty and a growing number conversely having doubts in God’s existence. This led researchers to question what exactly people are rejecting: a higher power or spiritual force or the Christian idea of God.
Here’s what they found from a survey last December of more than 4,700 US adults:
The vast majority – 90 per cent – believe in some kind of higher power. Fifty-six per cent profess faith in God as described in the Bible and 33 per cent say they believe in another type of higher power or spiritual force. One in 10 Americans say they don’t believe in God or a higher power of any kind.
How these numbers break down by religious traditions gets even more interesting.
Overall, 80 per cent of Christians said they believed in God as described in Bible. This number went up for historically black Protestant traditions, 92 per cent, and evangelical traditions, 91 per cent, but only 69 per cent of Catholics and 72 per cent of mainline Protestants had this view.
Looked at another way, 28 per cent of Catholics and 26 per cent of mainline Protestants said they believe in a higher power or spiritual force, but not in God as described in the Bible.
On the question of the belief that God is all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful, 61 per cent of Catholics and 62 per cent of mainline Protestants agreed, and in line with the trend in this survey, the numbers were up for black Protestant traditions and evangelicals, 91 per cent and 87 per cent, respectively. These two faith groups also were more likely than members of other major US Christian traditions to say that God has personally protected, rewarded and punished them.
When asked about specific views on God, Catholics tended to skew slightly lower than other Christian faiths. Eighty-eight per cent believe God loves all people. Seventy-eight per cent believe God knows everything and 67 per cent believe God has the power to change everything.
The belief that God is responsible for all or most things that happen in life is held by 82 per cent of those in historically black Protestant churches and 72 per cent of evangelical Protestants. More than half of Catholics also see God’s hand at work in all or most things that happen to them, as do 53 per cent of mainline Protestants.
Among demographic groups, more women than men see God at work in all or most of what happens in their lives.
Data was collected in telephone surveys from December 4 to 18, 2017. The sample of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.