- Americans remain heavily religious, but their views rarely conform to dogma, according to a massive new survey released this morning.
Seventy percent of religious adherents in the United States believe multiple religions can lead a person to salvation, while 68 percent say there is more than one way to interpret the teachings of their religion.
Those views are at the centerpiece of a survey of 36,000 people released today by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey - unprecedented in its combination of survey pool and breadth of questions - reveals that religious beliefs and practices in America defy doctrine.
- 57 percent of evangelical Christians say that multiple religions can lead to salvation, though nary an evangelical theologian or minister would say that.
- 58 percent of Catholics believe society should accept homosexuality, a view that is greatly at odds with U.S. Catholic bishops, including the Bay Area.
- 12 percent of Eastern Orthodox Christians say they speak in tongues once a week, even though it is a Pentecostal practice that is not in Orthodox liturgy.
- 21 percent of self-defined atheists believe in God.
- But several scholars who read the study - or were involved in it - said the often counterintuitive results revealed another ongoing theme in American religion: Many believers may know little about the true practices of their own faith, much less others. So the fact that Americans largely see multiple religions leading to salvation may not reveal a trait of true understanding, but possibly naivete.