A majority of Americans recently surveyed by the Gallup organization have what they believe is a sure answer to society's problems: religious faith.
"Fifty-seven percent of Americans say that religion can answer all or most of today's problems," Gallup reported, "while 30 (percent) say that religion is largely old fashioned and out of date. Americans have in recent decades become gradually less likely to say that religion can answer today's problems and more likely to believe religion is out of date."
ABC News Radio noted the survey showed that "those who were more inclined to put their faith in faith were older, conservative, and generally from the South."
The percentage of people who turn to their religious faith for answers to problems has dropped by 25 percent since 1957, the pollsters report. "The 82 (percent) choosing the '(religion) can answer today's problems' options in 1957 is in line with a number of other measures from that decade showing a high level of religiosity, including religious service attendance, importance of religion, and the percentage of Americans with a formal religious identity," Gallup noted. "But Americans' belief that religion can answer most problems dropped — to 62 (percent) — when Gallup next asked the question in the 1970s, and it remained at about this level in the 1980s and 1990s. Americans' belief that religion offers answers fell to 60 (percent) in the 2000s, while those stating the secular belief rose to 25 (percent)."
Gallup cited "increasing secularization" for the change, but stated the recent findings also confirm the nation remains largely religious. "And, with the trend leveling off in recent years, it appears this aspect of the secularization of U.S. society may have slowed, if not halted, for the foreseeable future," the polling firm said.
The survey didn't provide a "breakdown of which faiths might possess more answers than others. Gallup also doesn't define what today's 'problems' are, leaving respondents to answer based on their own conclusions," writer Alex Kocman noted at CharismaNews.com, an evangelical/Pentecostal website. "While many Christians are fearful of describing the biblical faith as a 'religion,' it may not be time to retire the R-word just yet."
The ups-and-downs of religious faith in America are regularly documented in media and surveys. Last fall, for example, the Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project noted a major change in the nation's Jewish community, that many felt comfortable identifying as Jews despite not believing in God: "American Jews overwhelmingly say they are proud to be Jewish and have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people. But the survey also suggests that Jewish identity is changing in America, where one-in-five Jews (22 percent) now describe themselves as having no religion," Pew reported.
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