A fourth of self-identified Christians don’t believe fully in the biblical description of God, Pew Research Center said in its latest study.
Rather, 25 percent of American Christians believe in what Pew described as “God or another higher power” who is not necessarily all-loving, omniscient and omnipotent as Scripture reveals.
“In total, three-quarters of U.S. Christians believe that God possesses all three of these attributes — that the deity is loving, omniscient and omnipotent,” Pew found in the study of about 4,750 Americans released April 25.
Eighty percent of Christians told Pew they believe in the biblical God, but not all of them believed in the three godly characteristics Pew identified. Other biblical characteristics of God, such as mercy and grace, were not specified in the study’s questions.
Most Christians, 93 percent, believe “God or another higher power in the universe” loves all people regardless of their faults, 87 percent believe God is omniscient or all-knowing, and 78 percent believe God is omnipotent or all-powerful.
The 75 percent of Christians who said they believe in all three of the identified characteristics of the biblical God was higher than the total found in the greater population, 56 percent of which reported such a belief. In all, 90 percent of Americans believe in a higher power not necessarily described as the biblical God.
“One of the key questions that motivated the study was to get more detail among those who say they don’t believe in God,” said Gregory Smith, associate director of research at Pew. “Among those people who say ‘no’ in a straightforward way when asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’ what are they rejecting? Are they rejecting belief in God or a higher power altogether?”
In the survey, those who answered that they do not believe in God were asked a follow-up question, whether they believed in “some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe.”
Pew conducted the study of 4,729 participants in its American Trends Panel Dec. 5-18, 2017, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. The study group is considered nationally representative.
Among other findings:
• 91 percent of black Protestants and 87 percent of white evangelicals believe God has all three traits, compared to 62 percent of mainline Protestants and 61 percent of Catholics.
• 56 percent of Jews and 53 percent of religiously unaffiliated “nones” told Pew they don’t believe in the biblical God but do believe in a higher power or spiritual force in the universe.
• 75 percent of American adults, including Christians and the general population, say they try to talk to God, but not all of them consider the conversations the same as prayer.
• 39 percent of Americans who said they never or seldom pray said they talk to God just the same.
• 3 percent of agnostics say they believe in the biblical God.
• In the general population, non-white Democrats — mostly African Americans and Hispanics — more closely resemble Republicans than white Democrats in their perceptions of a biblical God.
The survey did not include enough Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or members of other minority religious groups to permit separate analyses of their beliefs, Pew researchers said.
The full study is available at pewforum.org.
— by Diana Chandler | BP