- The Washington Times - Friday, December 12, 2008

Americans believe in God, angels, heaven, miracles - such traditional religious thinking is still much a part of the nation’s mind-set, according to research that also plumbs a few less traditional beliefs.

“Overall, more people believe in the devil, hell and angels than believe in Darwin´s theory of evolution,” said a Harris Poll released Thursday.

The numbers clearly favor the proverbial Big Man Upstairs: 80 percent say they believe in God; among those who attend church weekly, the number is 98 percent. Three-quarters believe in miracles, 73 percent believe in heaven, 71 percent say Jesus is the Son of God and 71 percent believe in angels, the survey found. Seven out of 10 say Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that the Bible is, all or in part, the “Word of God.”

More than two-thirds - 68 percent - believe in the “survival of the soul after death” and would describe themselves as religious. About 62 percent think that hell exists, 61 percent believe in the Virgin Birth and 59 percent say the devil exists.

In contrast, fewer than half - 47 percent - said they believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution; a third said they did not believe in it while 22 percent were not sure what they thought. A full 40 percent said they believe in creationism, though the question did not elaborate on exactly what that term meant.

Supernatural phenomena of other kinds attract Americans’ attention.

Overall, 44 percent of the respondents said they believe in ghosts, 36 percent say UFOs are real while 31 percent believe in both witches and astrology. About a quarter believe in reincarnation, or “that you were once another person,” the survey found.

“I think these numbers show that Americans are both devout and rebellious at the same time,” said Steve Waldman, co-founder and editor in chief of Beliefnet, an online spiritual source that also polls the public.

“Americans embrace key parts of tradition and faith, but they add other sorts of stuff, the supplementary beliefs that might not be on the approved list,” he added.

Although Protestants have a slight edge on Catholics in terms of church attendance, the survey revealed marked similarities between the denominations.

“There are no significant differences between the large percentages of Catholics and Protestants who believe in God, miracles, heaven and hell, that Jesus is the Son of God, angels, the Resurrection of Jesus, the survival of the soul after death, the Virgin Birth and the devil,” the survey said.

“However, Catholics are more likely than Protestants to believe in Darwin´s theory of evolution (by 52 percent to 32 percent), ghosts (by 57 percent to 41 percent), UFOs (43 percent to 31 percent), and astrology (by 40 percent to 28 percent). Protestants are slightly more likely than Catholics to believe in creationism (by 54 percent to 46 percent).”

The survey of 2,126 adults was conducted Nov. 10-17.

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