Barna study examines Americans’ faith beliefs in growing pluralistic society
A new Barna study examined how Americans’ faith beliefs have changed in a pluralistic society, and attempted to discern if more people are embracing a universalism view of life.
The study, entitled What Americans Believe about Universalism and Pluralism, also tried to see if there were shifts in belief between younger Americans and adults in terms of faith being affected by pluralism and likeliness to embrace a universalism view, the study said.
Definition of terms
Three terms are defined. First, “universalism” is the belief that everyone will be saved. Second, “pluralism” refers to the presence of multiple religions in American society. Third, “born again,” refers to those who believe they will go to heaven because they have accepted Jesus as their savior and are committed to Him, the Barna website said.
Regarding salvation and beliefs, the Barna study showed:
- Some 40 percent of Americans believe that all people will eventually be saved no matter what they do, because God loves them. Some 50 percent disagreed.
- Some 43 percent believe all religions teach the same lessons, while 54 percent disagree.
- Some 40 percent believe everyone will share the same outcome after death regardless of their religion, while 55 percent disagree.
Regarding belief of good and evil, the Barna study indicated:
- Some 69 percent believe you either side with God or the devil; there is no in-between, while 27 percent disagree.
- Some 48 percent believe a good person who does good for others will go to heaven, while 44 percent disagree.
Regarding interrelating with other faiths, the Barna study showed:
- Some 51 percent of evangelists feel “a responsibility to tell other people their religious beliefs.”
- Some 62 percent of adults value having “active, healthy relationships with people of other faiths.
- Some 59 percent of adults believe Christians and Muslims fundamentally worship the same God.
- Some 43 percent say the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon have the same spiritual truths, although stated differently.
Interesting findings in the Barna study were:
More born again Christians believe in sharing their faith, and desire active, healthy relationships with people of other faiths. There is however some creeping universalism in that 25 percent believe all will eventually be saved, 26 percent feel all religions teach the same lessons, and 40 percent believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God, the website indicated.
There was no significant change regarding universalism and pluralism between older and younger (aged 18-39) generations, but some patterns were found in the Barna study:
- Younger generation Christians are less likely to believe that in life you either side with God or the devil; there is no in-between.
- Young people are less inclined to share their religious beliefs.
- More young people believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God; believe all will eventually be saved no matter what they do; and believe that all faiths teach the same lessons.
- Adults (over forty) are more inclined to desire healthy relationships with people of other faiths.
- Young born again Christians are much less open to inclusive or universalist views of eternity. They are also less certain of their own future in the afterlife.
Surveys were conducted by telephone and cell phones in the OmniPollSM and drawn from Barna Group’s theolographicTM database dating from 2005 through 2011. There is a 3.2 percent margin for error, the website said.