The Pew Research Center surveyed more than 4,700 people about their views on God, and found that 56 percent of U.S. adults believe in God “as described in the Bible.” But what does that even mean?
“The survey questions that mention the Bible do not specify any particular verses or translations, leaving that up to each respondent’s understanding,” Pew explained in a release on the survey’s findings. “But it is clear from questions elsewhere in the survey that Americans who say they believe in God ‘as described in the Bible’ generally envision an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving deity who determines most or all of what happens in their lives.”
Below are a few findings from Pew’s survey, conducted December 4 to 18, 2017, with 4,729 participants about their beliefs about God. It is important to note that the survey began by first asking respondents if they “believe in God, or not.” If they answered positively, they were then asked if they “believe in God as described in the Bible” or, if not, if they “believe there is some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe.”
Black Protestants: This segment more than any other reported highly in belief in God as described in the Bible, at a rate of 92 percent (followed closely by self-identified Evangelicals). Just six percent said they believe in another deity or higher power. Black Protestants also hold the highest levels of belief about God being all-loving (98 percent), omniscient (97 percent), and omnipotent (96 percent). Overall, 91 percent of self-identified Black Protestants believe God holds all three attributes.
The Nones: Seventy-two percent of the so-called “nones,” or religiously unaffiliated Americans, said they believe in a “higher power” though not necessarily in God. Overall, about one-third of all respondents shared this view. According to Pew, these folks “are much less likely to believe in a deity who is omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent and active in human affairs,” like God in the Bible.
Deists: Nearly half of survey respondents (48 percent) said they believe that God “or another higher power directly” can controls what happens in their lives “all or most of the time.” However, 18 percent also believe this higher power, God or otherwise, directly controls what happens in their lives “just some of the time.”
Talkers: The Pew survey asked about “prayer” and “talking to God” separately. One would think that those who say they pray to God would match the percentage of those who say they talk to God. But, according to Pew, “four-in-ten people (39 percent) who say they seldom or never pray nonetheless report that they talk to God.” A majority of Americans (75 percent) said they “try to talk” to God or another higher power and about 30 percent of them believe “God talks back.”
Christians: Perhaps not surprisingly, respondents who identified as Christians didn’t share the exact same views about God. Twenty percent of self-identified Christians reported not believing in “the biblical description of God” although they do believe in some higher power. As noted above, the survey did not drill into actual descriptions of God from the Bible, or reference any Bible verses in the survey so we don’t know why 1 in 5 of these Christians take issue with or reject the Bible’s description of God. Amazingly, or not, 10 percent of this group reported not believing in any deity or higher power.
Young Americans: Just 43 percent of respondents aged 18-29 believe in the God of the Bible, while 39 percent said they believe in another higher power or spiritual force. About half of these two segments believe their deity has the power to directly change things in their lives and 21 percent say they talk to this deity.
While Pew did talk with some Americans who identify as Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims, the nonprofit reports that they did not get enough interviews with these religious segments for meaningful breakdowns of their beliefs. Aside from Christians, Jews made notable responses for further analysis. Read the survey’s full findings over at Pew: http://www.pewforum.org/2018/04/25/when-americans-say-they-believe-in-god-what-do-they-mean/.