Portraits of American Life Study
Hosted by The ARDA
The PALS seeks to understand the impact of religion in everyday life, and ultimately the connections between religious change and other forms of change among diverse individuals and families over the course of their lives.

Religious Beliefs (2006)

The following questions were asked of all persons, both affiliated and not affiliated with a religious congregation. Respondents could strongly agree, somewhat agree, neither agree nor disagree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree.

"I definitely believe in God."

Over 90% of the population agreed with this statement. While most people believe in God, who is this God? What does God mean to them? COMMENT.

"God is not personal, but something like a cosmic life force."

While about half of the population agrees with this statement, there is some variation among the religious traditions. Over 70% of Jewish respondents agreed. About 60% of Black Protestants, Catholics, and Unaffiliated were in agreement. Almost half of Mainline Protestants agreed, while 35% of Evangelicals agreed.

"It doesnít matter much what I believe so long as Iím a good person."

Strongly and Somewhat Agree:
  Other Affiliated60%
  Mainline Protestant47%
  Black Protestant44%
  Evangelical Protestant30%

Given the teachings of most faith traditions these are rather surprisingly high percentages of people saying it matters more what they do than what they believe. Of course, what each person defines as a good person is subjective. In your faith tradition do you see these results as encouraging or discouraging? COMMENTS.

"Muhammad was the holy prophet of God"

Strongly and Somewhat Agree:
   Muslim 100%
   Other Affiliated 23%
   Black Protestant 23%
   Jewish 21%
   Catholic 15%
   Protestant - Other 14%
   Average 13%
   Unaffiliated 13%
   Mainline Protestant 11%
   Evangelical Protestant 7%

Interestingly, thirteen percent of the population agreed that Muhammad was the holy prophet of God, while Muslims constitute only one percent of the U.S. population.

"Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead."

Strongly and Somewhat Agree:
   Mormon 100%
   Evangelical Protestant93%
   Black Protestant90%
   Mainline Protestant84%
   Average 75%

"I experienced a supernatural miracle, an event that could not have happened without the intervention of God or a spiritual force."

Strongly and Somewhat Agree:
   Black Protestant73%
   Evangelical Protestant67%
   Other Affiliated52%
   Mainline Protestant44%

"An angel has directly helped me in a time of need."

Strongly and Somewhat Agree:
   Black Protestant76%
   Evangelical Protestant52%
   Mainline Protestant41%
   Other Affiliated41%

"The Devil, demons or evil spirits exist."

Strongly and Somewhat Agree:
   Evangelical Protestant86%
   Black Protestant82%
   Mainline Protestant68%
   Other Affiliated53%

"I believe in reincarnation, that people have lived previous lives."

Strongly and Somewhat Agree:
   Black Protestant39%
   Mainline Protestant25%
   Evangelical Protestant14%

Findings regarding religious beliefs indicate that persons of a religious tradition are sometimes willing to accept tenets of other major faiths Ė that religious beliefs are not always mutually exclusive. Examples are half of American Muslims believe Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead while about 40% of Jewish respondents and Black Protestants believe in reincarnation. Accepting beliefs beyond onesí own religious tradition is less likely to occur when that belief contradicts onesí own convictions. Examples are only 3% of Jewish respondents believing Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead and only 14% of Evangelicals reporting a belief in reincarnation. COMMENT.

Notice how the location of the Jewish respondents varies across the belief questions. How do you make sense of what is occurring? COMMENT.

Give us your feedback!

Through out these sections, we invite you to enter the discussion about these findings and what their implications may be. Click on the COMMENT link to send your thoughts to pals@rice.edu. Where appropriate we will include comments for others to read and discuss. Names of contributors will not be posted, but, if you like, include your religious tradition.

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