Survey: Belief in God, Heaven, Hell, angels, and the devil is lower than ever before
While a majority of Americans still believe in supernatural entities, Gallup found declines over the past two decades
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Belief in the supernatural is at an all-time low, according to a new survey from Gallup. While the majority of Americans still believe in God, angels, Heaven, Hell, and Satan, those majorities continue to dwindle, which could be bad news for the religious institutions that treat fiction as fact.
Since 2001, belief in God has gone from 90% to 74%—which implies more than a quarter of Americans are either unsure or reject the idea of God altogether. The percentage of believers has not gone up in the past two decades.
Meanwhile, while belief in the devil saw a slight rise during the George W. Bush administration, that number has also seen a drop from a high of 70% to 58% today. (Ironically, 69% of Americans still believe in angels. People seem to prefer their spiritual entities in a “glass half full” sort of way.)
51% of Americans believe in all five of those spiritual entities. 7% of Americans are “unsure” about all five. 11% reject all five. (Those 11% are correct.)
All of this is happening while plenty of other surveys have found a dramatic rise in non-belief. The Pew Research Center has found that 29% of Americans have no religious affiliation at all.
So how many atheists believe in these spiritual entities? (How many people are full of logical inconsistencies?) That’s a little harder to say. While Gallup doesn’t address the issue in this particular survey, Pew found in 2017 that 9% of people who didn’t believe in God did believe in some “higher power.” There’s a flip side to that too. There are a lot of Americans in this survey who say they believe in God but reject the concepts of Heaven, Hell, or the beings that supposedly live in them. What the hell is going on there? It suggests many Americans take a cafeteria-style approach to religion, picking and choosing the parts they like instead of purchasing the entire package.
Gallup found (perhaps not surprisingly) that believers in all of the Big Five include Protestants more than Catholics, frequent churchgoers more than casual ones, people without a college degree more than college graduates, Republicans more than Democrats, people in households that make under $40,000 a year more than those making over $100,000, adults 55 and older more than younger ones, and women more than men (except when it comes to the devil, when both numbers are the same).
All of this is bad news for church leaders that use these beliefs to bring in and control members. When fewer people believe in the devil, it’s a lot harder to scare them straight. When fewer people believe in Heaven or Hell, it raises questions about why people need to follow religious rules that don’t make sense.
Many atheists could tell you that their belief in God didn’t fade away in a split second. Rather, there was some aspect of religion that stopped making sense to them. That led to them questioning other ones. Once that first domino fell, the others followed in succession until even God couldn’t stand up to scrutiny.
What these survey results show us is that the dominoes are falling. It’ll take a while for the entire chain to go down, but religious leaders should be worried.
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