Tuesday, January 30, 2007

In God we (still) trust.

Almost two-thirds of Americans — churchgoing or not — say the overall health of the nation is heavily dependent on its spiritual health. About 77 percent say the nation’s economy is dependent on its spiritual well-being, while 64 percent say religious expressions are either tolerated or encouraged in their workplaces, according to a Gallup Poll released yesterday.

The findings are part of a greater study plumbing the “spiritual state of the union,” said Ted Malloch, director of the Florida-based Spiritual Enterprise Institute.

The poll “measures the extent to which Americans believe in God, act out their belief and impact secular America in real terms: in the workplace, in volunteerism, in business dealings,” he said.

Believers are many: 82 percent of the respondents believe in God, while 13 percent believe in a “universal spirit or higher power.” Three-quarters say they are Christian, 6 percent are labeled non-Christian and 18 percent have no religious tradition. A majority — 58 percent — say success in life is “pretty much determined” by religious and spiritual forces.

Of the respondents, 43 percent were Democrats, 41 percent were Republicans and 13 percent were independents. Ideologically speaking, 58 percent said they leaned conservative, while 32 percent said they were liberal.

The survey also revealed a slow shift in public attitude. Gallup figures in 1999 found 54 percent of Americans called themselves “religious,” and 30 percent “spiritual but not religious.” Those numbers are now 49 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, “the ‘Protestant work ethic’ is alive and well,” the survey stated. It found that 78 percent of the respondents would go on working even if they had enough money to quit, while 85 percent agreed that “being ethical will pay off economically.” Three-quarters would not bend rules at work, while 97 percent said friends and family respected their line of work. Ninety-two percent said they believe “God wants us to do something with our lives that will be useful to the world.”

Such thinking may have its own rewards: 83 percent said their work “is helping make the world a better place.” When a 1992 Gallup Poll posed the same question, the percentage was 68 percent.

Spiritual inclinations are either sustained or increasing, the poll found. Eighty-eight percent of the respondents say they are “happy with who I am,” up four percentage points from the 1992 survey. Seventy-nine percent said there are clear guidelines to good and evil that apply to everyone, about the same as the previous survey. Almost two-thirds — 65 percent — say they are “spiritually committed.” The figure was previously 68 percent.

The nation is in a somber mood, the poll noted, with only 29 percent satisfied with the direction of the country, according to separate Gallup findings. But “Americans are fighting back,” the current survey stated, noting that seven of 10 regularly volunteer and contribute to charity.

The poll of 1,004 adults was conducted during February and March last year with an error margin of three percentage points.

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