Friday, December 19, 2008

Many Americans say other religions can lead to eternal life

Pew Polling Results

While this isn't exactly earth-shattering news per se (the U.S. has a history of ecumenism and inclusivism, almost to the extent that one can be considered a "person of faith" in good standing and pray to a beached sperm whale), exactly which other religions Americans give high marks to is interesting.

Here's the crunch:

80% of Christians identified at least one non-Christian religion as granting eternal life (that number is surprisingly high even among evangelical Christians at 72%)

The non-christian religion most favored is Judaism (69%), followed by Hinduism (53%), which just barely edged out Islam (52%). Dead last (pun, get it? bah) are atheists (42%), which somehow managed to be less of a route to eternal life than not being religious at all (56%). I guess they didn't realize that a lot of atheists would fit very comfortably in the non-religious category as well. Or maybe it's just good ol' fashioned fear of atheists.

But how exactly does one obtain eternal life? Beliefs. No, actions! *gets dragged into theological debate with both views seemingly supported in the Bible* Each view enjoys about 30% popularity.

And unsurprisingly, views on exclusivity are linked to church attendance. As church attendance goes up, exclusivity goes up and as attendance goes down, exclusivity goes down. If they go to church at least once a week, 42% say that their religion is the only path to eternal life. If they go less than once a week, that number changes to 18%. (Evangelicals are 60% to 30% respectively, while Catholic numbers don't change much at all, from 85% to 84%)

What does this poll tell us? Judaism rocks. Granted, the other "religions" on offer are kind of weaksauce: Islam, Hinduism, atheism, and no religion at all. No deism, pantheism, Buddhism, Taoism, Baha'i, or any pagan religion. I'm really surprised Buddhism in particular didn't get on the ballot, considering that the Dalai Lama is one of the few non-Christian religious leaders that Americans are likely to be familiar with. Maybe next time, they'll increase the ever-widening net of interreligious inclusiveness and endorse my beached whale religion as a path to everlasting life just as valid as whatever crazy religion they believe in. For the sake of tolerance, let's all pray for it, towards whatever human (or whale) died for our sins. Ramen.

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