Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Americans Believe About Universalism and Pluralism

The new Barna Update article examines how different generations think about
universalism and pluralism.
From: Barna Group
April 18, 2011

What Americans Believe About Universalism and Pluralism

Entering Holy Week of 2011, there has been more discussion than usual about
heaven and hell. Most Americans believe they, themselves, will go to heaven.
Yet, what do they think about the idea that there are many paths to the
afterlife? The latest Barna Update explores whether Americans embrace
inclusive or exclusive views of salvation as well as how they operate within
the multi-faith nature of society.


Broadly defined, universalism is the belief that all human beings will be
saved after death. On balance, Americans leaned toward exclusive rather than
inclusive views. For example, 43% agreed and 54% disagreed with the
statement, "It doesn't matter what religious faith you follow because they
all teach the same lessons."

Similar splits in public opinion emerged for the statements, "All people
will experience the same outcome after death, regardless of their religious
beliefs" (40% agreed, 55% disagreed) and the sentiment, "All people are
eventually saved or accepted by God, no matter what they do, because he
loves all people he has created" (40% versus 50%).

However, even as millions of Americans believe God saves everyone, most
still place strong responsibility on human effort and choice regarding their
ultimate destiny. Nearly seven out of 10 adults agreed with the idea "in
life you either side with God or you side with the devil; there is no
in-between position" (69% versus 27%). And about half of adults concurred
that "if a person is generally good or does enough good things for others,
they will earn a place in heaven" (48% agreed, while 44% disagreed).

One aspect of exclusion and inclusion is how Americans' relate to faiths
other than their own, which is particularly important in a pluralistic,
multi-faith society. On the evangelistic side, a slim majority of Americans
(51%) believe they have "a responsibility to tell other people their
religious beliefs."

At the same time, more than three out of every five adults (62%) said it is
important "to have active, healthy relationships with people who belong to
religious faiths that do not accept the central beliefs of your faith."

In a mash-up of pluralism and universalism, 59% of adults believe that
"Christians and Muslims worship the same God even though they have different
names and beliefs regarding God." Americans are less likely to endorse the
idea that "the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different
expressions of the same spiritual truths," although 43% agreed, conforming
closely to the percent of Americans who endorse inclusive ideas about faith.

One of the interesting findings regarding Islam was the fact that residents
of Texas (62%) were equally likely as residents of New York (62%) to believe
that Christians and Muslims worship the same deity. Florida residents (58%)
were statistically similar. Yet, the inhabitants of the nation's most
populous state, California, were less likely than average to embrace this
view (48%).

...despite their own personal faith convictions, many born again Christians
embrace certain aspects of universalist thought. One-quarter of born again
Christians said that all people are eventually saved or accepted by God
(25%) and that it doesn't matter what religious faith you follow because
they all teach the same lessons (26%). An even larger percentage of born
again Christians (40%) indicated that they believe Christians and Muslims
worship the same God.

[...clipped to the end]

Read the full Barna Update


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