Believers OK With Many Paths
Religion today in the USA is a salad bar where people heap on upbeat beliefs they like and often leave the veggies - like strict doctrines - behind."There are so many ways of seeing God," public policy expert says, that "the highest authority is now the lowest common denominator."
Such are key findings in latest data from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey of 35,000 Americans. Pew released demographic data in February from the survey, conducted May through August 2007.
Among the highlights of the survey:
~ 78% overall say there are- "absolute standards of right and wrong," but only 29% rely on their religion to delineate these standards. The majority (52%) turn to "practical experience and common sense," with 9% relying on philosophy and reason, and 5% on scientific information.
74% say '"there is a heaven, where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded," but far fewer (59%) say there's a "hell, where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished"
"Americans believe in everything. It's a spiritual salad bar," says Rice University sociologist Michael Lindsay. Rather than religious leaders setting the cultural agenda, today, it's Oprah Winfrey, he says. "After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the national memorial service was at Washington's National Cathedral, conducted by Episcopal clergy. After the 9/11 attack, Oprah organized the official memorial service at Yankee Stadium, and while clergy participated. she was the master of ceremonies.
'The impact of Oprah is seen throughout this survey. She uses the language of Bible and Christian traditions and yet includes other traditions to create a hodgepodge personalized faith. Exclusivism (one religion has the absolute and exclusive truth) has gotten a bad name in America today," he says.
Source: USA Today June 24, 2008