The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
According to a new Pew Research survey, 80% of Americans believe in God, but only 56% say they believe in the God of the Bible.
Several researches in recent years have shown that the share of Americans who believe in God with absolute certainty has declined, while the number of them saying they have doubts about God’s existence or just do not believe in God at all, has grown.
A Pew Research Center survey released this week shows what Americans believe about God, who He is for them, and how that affects their lives.
THE GOD OF THE BIBLE
Researchers questioned 4,729 US adults and found that 80% of them believe in God, but only a slim majority (56%) say they believe in the God of the Bible.
Among the rest, one-third (33%) say they do not believe in the God of the Bible, but they do believe there is some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe. The remaining 10% doesn’t ascribe to a higher power at all.
NON-CHRISTIANS, MEN AND COLLEGE STUDENTS, LESS LIKELY TO BELIEVE IN GOD
Belief in God as described in the Bible is more common among women than men (61% /50%), older people than younger adults (65% / 43%), less-educated people than college graduates (66% / 45%), and among Republicans than Democrats (70% / 45%).
Compared with Christians, Jews and people with no religious affiliation are much more likely to say they do not believe in God or a higher power of any kind. Still, big majorities in both groups do believe in a deity (89% among Jews, 72% among religious “nones”).
Additionally, the survey finds “sizeable differences in the way various Christian subgroups perceive God”.
While 92% of historically black Protestants and 91% of evangelicals say they believe in God 'as described in the Bible', smaller majorities of mainline Protestants (72%) and Catholics (69%) say they have faith in the biblical God.
HOW IS GOD?
The study did not mention any particular Bible verses or translations in its questions, leaving the interpretation of God 'as described in the Bible' down to each respondent.
But, according to Pew “those who believe in God 'as described in the Bible' and those who believe in another kind of higher power or spiritual force express substantially different views”.
“Simply put, those who believe in the God of the Bible tend to perceive a more powerful, knowing, benevolent and active deity”, they explained.
The research shows that 97% of adults who say they believe in the God of the Bible , also think God loves all people regardless of their faults, 94% of those believers envisage a deity who knows everything that goes on in the world, and 86% say God has the power to direct or change everything that happens in the world.
Meanwhile, far fewer people who believe in some other higher power or spiritual force ascribe these attributes and actions to that higher power. Still, even among this group, 69% say they believe another higher power in the universe loves all people, is omniscient (53%), and has power to change everything (39%).