Saturday, December 27, 2008

Americans and eternal life

The Pew Forum of Religion and Public Life just released a poll surveying Americans and their views on eternal life.

65% of "religiously affiliated" Americans believe people of faiths other than their own can also obtain eternal life (down 5% from 2007, 11% from 2002). Salvifically speaking, this number shows that Americans are more pluralistic and less triumphalistic; there are multiple paths up the mountain. I love that 42% of respondents think that athiests can make it. Also surveyed, the actions/behaviors leading to eternal life: 30% of those polled believe that faith alone will earn eternal life, and an equal amount (29%) believe that actions alone will earn eternal life; 10% believe that both faith and actions are required. Read the poll analysis for more thorough ... uh ... analysis-y stuff.

Charles Blow, op-ed columnist for the NYT, today tried to explain these results. Professor Alan Stegal, Barnard College, said in the article that our multicultural society (my take: exposure to a diversity of people of different faiths) makes it "hard for us to imagine God letting [those of other faiths] go to hell." I mostly agree with that, but whatever. The last paragraph of the op-ed is both insightful and hopeful:
Now, there remains the possibility that some of those polled may not have understood the implications of their answers. As John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said, “The capacity of ignorance to influence survey outcomes should never be underestimated.” But I don’t think that they are ignorant about this most basic tenet of their faith. I think that they are choosing to ignore it ... for goodness sake.

1 comment:

Darren Staley said...

Great article and great post. Interfaith (and outerfaith) dialogue would be much easier with all parties agreeing that who goes to heaven or hell or neither is not up for man to decide.

I have a family member who goes out with a church group on Saturdays to deliver meals to the poor and elderly. This is fine with me. I applaud it.

But they also leave literature and talk up the church and pray and try to convert the people. This, I have a problem with.

If you want to go door to door spreading the gospel, fine. If you want to go door to door delivering food, fine. But don't make one a condition of the other.

Just feed the people, and when you get home deal with God:“Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).