- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

Americans have mixed feelings about religion and violence after September 11, a new survey reports.
What's more, while Americans are more trusting of Muslims in the United States, they continue to worry about anti-American sentiments in Islamic countries worldwide, said the poll released yesterday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
On the role of religion, 80 percent of Americans rank it as beneficial, but 65 percent also say religion bears a "great deal" or "fair amount" of blame for wars and conflicts.
"What really struck me was how people are of two minds about the role of religion," said Andrew Kohut, who conducted the poll as director of the Pew Research Center.
The report found that 67 percent of respondents said that the United States is a "Christian nation." But more Americans 75 percent also said that "many religions can lead to eternal life," not just Christianity.
Despite this support of religious pluralism, the concern over violence focused on Islam. Just 5 percent of Americans say they know "a great deal" about Islam, according to the report.
"Those who think that some religions are more violent than others are more likely to see widespread anti-American sentiments among Muslims," the report said.
Those most likely to fear Islam and reject its claim to legitimacy are white, conservative evangelicals, the survey found.
But Mr. Kohut said that this group's attitude toward Muslims in the United States has grown more positive, probably because of President Bush's urgings not to blame Islam for terrorism.
"The public is trying to not think of this as a clash of civilizations" between the Christian West and Islam, Mr. Kohut said.
Still, he said, "they are struggling with the link between Islam and violence."
At a time when American patriotism and nationalism surged, moreover, "there is a strong sense that the United States is not alone in receiving special protection from God," the report said.
Nearly half of Americans said the nation "has had special protection" from the Almighty, but most of them (76 percent) agreed that God protects other countries as well.
Four in 10 said "America has no special protection." And just 5 percent of all respondents agreed with religious leaders such as the Rev. Pat Robertson or the Rev. Jerry Falwell that God withdrew protection because of the nation's moral sins.
Among "highly committed" evangelicals who are most likely to claim God's protection for America alone just 12 percent agreed that the terrorists succeeded because God allowed the acts to happen.
Karlyn H. Bowman, a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute who helped analyze the poll at a Brookings Institution panel yesterday, said in an interview that while Americans know little about Islam, they express tolerance toward Muslims.
"I think that's a sign of American generosity," she said, adding that the September 11 attacks did not spawn religious nationalism in the United States.
The poll found that the spike of interest in religion after September 11 has subsided.
While 61 percent of adults think children need religious training to grow up morally upright, half of them argue that belief in God is not necessary for adult morality.
"American have a nostalgia for the past and yet a kind of ambivalence about religion and morals," Miss Bowman said.
The nationwide survey of 2002 representative adults was conducted between Feb. 25 and March 10.


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