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State of Belief

After the Kansas creationism debacle, and Pat Robertson’s mouthing off about eight IDiots being booted off a Pennsylvania school board, I wanted to check in on the scope of the problem. According to a Newsweek poll taken since August 29, 2005, turns out it’s pretty huge. This isn’t really news, because things haven’t changed much in the past several years. But when you see it in black and white, it hits home why we have the political problems we do today, i.e. why George W. Bush got elected.

I can only imagine the cognitive dissonance carried out on a daily basis that allows a large majority of people to maintain their levels of belief. Whatever works for them, I guess. I’ll champion anyone’s right to believe whatever they wish, but when they act on those beliefs in a way that confuses children about science, or results in restrictive laws being passed about private behavior, I have a serious problem.

Please take the poll. Some highlights:

  • About 15% of people say they have no religion, and believe in no god, 20% never pray. Most of these would likely self-identify as brights. (I’ve always maintained that if this number went to 30-35%, we’d be living in a vastly improved nation.)
  • 74% believe the universe was created by god. (I always want to ask, who made god, then? And where is he?)
  • 59% believe the soul goes to heaven or hell after death. Adding the 16% who believe in non-specific continuity, fully 75% of people believe in an afterlife. (There’s always hope to see Grammaw again!)
  • Between 10% and 30% of religious people believe that only followers of their religion can go to heaven. (This one is the clincher, along with people who pray to win football games and wars.)
  • Regarding the important questions of faith, there are about an equal number of people who say they don’t know as those who say there is no god. It varies by question, but in the very low double digits.

Another interesting fact is that the Newsweek poll was done in conjunction with a website called beliefnet.com, and their positive results for belief far exceeded those who actually took the web survey, for obvious reasons.

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