The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey recently conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has attracted a fair amount of attention (e.g., it came up in the Keller interview I recently mentioned). One prominent finding in this 35,000 participant survey is that most Americans have a non-dogmatic approach when it comes to interpreting the tenets of their own religion. Among Protestants, 83% in mainline churches think that many religions can lead to eternal life. Among evangelicals, 57% believe the same thing. In fact, the survey indicated that “only among Mormons (57%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (80%) do majorities say that their own religion is the one true faith leading to eternal life.” Check it out.
Responding to the survey, David Van Biema, writing for Time Magazine, aptly concludes:
“The survey’s biggest challenge is to the theologians and pastors who will have to reconcile their flocks’ acceptance of a new, polyglot heaven with the strict admission criteria to the gated community that preceded it.”
1. This month’s issue of Tabletalk warns of the dangers inherent in a pluralistic society.
2. For a great read on the exclusivist-inclusivist debate among professing Christians, see Faith Comes By Hearing, edited by Chris Morgan and Robert Peterson. I interviewed Morgan.
Update: Adelle M. Banks writes today about the Pew Report in Christianity Today, noting that “Americans are religious in unpredictable ways”:
1. More than half of evangelical respondents said that many religions can lead to eternal life, despite the central evangelical tenet that Jesus is the sole path to eternity with God.
2. 12 percent of Orthodox Christians, who are known for their by-the-book liturgical worship, reported speaking or praying in tongues at least once a week — a practice most commonly associated with Pentecostal traditions.
3. 29 percent of Catholics see God as an impersonal force, even though the Catholic Catechism teaches that “the faith of all Christians” rests on the belief in God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
4. One in five self-described atheists, whose main tenet is to reject belief in God, say they believe in God or a universal spirit.