Report: Americans hold different views of what “religious” means

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There is a lopsided divide in America about what it means to be a religious person, with a majority believing that it’s about acting morally but a strong minority equating it with faith.


Nearly six out of 10 Americans (59 percent) say that being a religious person “is primarily about living a good life and doing the right thing,” as opposed to the more than one-third (36 percent) who hold that being religious “is primarily about having faith and the right beliefs.”

The findings, released Thursday (July 18), are part of a report by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution that aims to paint a more nuanced picture of the American religious landscape, and the religious left in particular.

Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, said that Americans’ two views of what makes a person religious harken back to the Protestant Reformation and to the Bible itself.

Written By: Lauren Markoe
continue to source article at religionnews.com

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  1. I wonder to what extent this is another form of pigeonholing. I imagine a fair few people’s views on what religion is would be a bit more complicated than this.

    Nearly six out of 10 Americans (59 percent) say that being a religious person “is primarily about living a good life and doing the right thing,” as opposed to the more than one-third (36 percent) who hold that being religious “is primarily about having faith and the right beliefs.”

    All the same, it’s still depressing to think so many people equate religiosity with morality. Faking any claim to ethical expertise is probably the single reason why religions haven’t already been reduced to the lunatic fringe where they belong. Their failures at science and philosophy are just icing on the cake compared to this obstacle to secularism.

    • In reply to #1 by Zeuglodon:

      Hi Zeuglodon (top handle by the way),

      I liked your comment.

      I wonder to what extent this is another form of pigeon-holing. I imagine a fair few people’s views on what religion is would be a bit more complicated than this.

      That is almost certainly true, and I join you in worrying that pigeon-holing people could make them feel that they are being personally limited by other people not accepting the nuances in their views.

      However, statistics like this are – surely – only very rarely applied directly to individual situations? Even then, I imagine people like us would only use them, say, as an opening gambit: “I hear that a recent finding is that 60% of the religious are not fundamentalists, where do you fit in the constellation of belief?”

      On the other hand, statistics like this tell us a lot about the demographics and dynamics of groups. Within these figures is the continuum from implacable faith-head foe to secular-leaning believer who is prepared to listen. From a political perspective such statistics are, therefore, very useful.

      Similarly, we could criticise them on the ground that they are also only a snap-shot – they only tell us the situation at the time the survey was taken, in a fluid and rapidly changing environment. But despite the fact that they have these kinds of weaknesses, surveys like this tell us all that, if we are minded to try, there is much fertile ground for friendly approaches, even accommodation.

      I’m not much of a one for accommodation, it’s simply a losing strategy in the longer term. No-one feels the weight of imperative, so ultimately nothing changes. Does that mean it should be off the table? Eugenie Scott, outgoing Director of the NCSE, could point to her own political success as evidence that sailing close to the accommodation wind makes for rapid and consistent progress.

      If we think in terms of the application of resources, and these statistics, it is easy to see that the friendlier the approach the more likely we are to move people politically from a reactionary camp to an evidence and fact based camp. That’s still a long way from secular humanism and a critically thinking electorate – but it’s a start.

      We all have power over one very special resource – ourselves. These statistics tell us, your ‘don’t pigeon-hole’ warning not forgotten, that we should consider spending time with people who seem to be religiously less faith-based. I am, perhaps, more likely to see this angle than most as many of my family have been left-leaning Anglicans.

      Peace.

  2. Report: Americans hold different views of what “religious” means

    Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, said that Americans’ two views of what makes a person religious harken back to the Protestant Reformation and to the Bible itself.

    So! “Religion is Xtian, Protestant or Bible based????
    In view of the numerous religions of the world past and present – a somewhat blinkered view!

    Nearly six out of 10 Americans (59 percent) say that being a religious person “is primarily about living a good life and doing the right thing,”

    Oh! dear the old false equivalence of moral integrity, consideration for others, and “religion”!

    as opposed to the more than one-third (36 percent) who hold that being religious “is primarily about having faith and the right beliefs.”

    Dog’s chosen tribe of exclusive faith-heads, who have chosen the “correct” religion! (according to them!)

  3. If the believers are confused about religion, then so am I. From the article :

    “This has been a perennial debate through the ages in Christianity,” said Jones. “The Pauline literature, especially in the Book of Romans, makes the case for religious justification by faith alone, while the Book of James seems to state the very opposite — ‘faith without works is dead.’”

    Since religion in America = Christianity, and as Christianity is based on the Bible and as the Bible contradicts itself, who can blame the believers for being confused ? I think Marx described it as the mist enveloped land of religion. How right he was ! Nothing there to be found but fog and confusion ! Turn the other cheek and also an eye for an eye ! Very profound stuff, cover all the bases and hope no-one notices !

  4. “What may bode even worse for religious conservatives is that they skew old. The survey shows that they are heavily represented among the oldest Americans (47 percent) but “make up a smaller proportion of each successive generation.” (Report by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution)

    Despite all the confusion, this is good news and shows that better can be expected if the work to promote reason and science continues.

  5. For someone who believes ““religion is primarily about living a good life and doing the right thing” they must find it very frightening when someone says it would be a good thing if earth dropped all religion.

    Perhaps we should formulate our opposition as disdaining “believing without evidence”, “blind faith”, “belief counter to common sense or established scientific fact” “lying about science” “cruelty in the name of religion”

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