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GROWING PLURALISM

Most Americans don’t believe their religious tradition is the only way to eternal life, even if their denomination teaches otherwise, finds a Pew Forum study. 57% of evangelical church-attenders believe many religions can lead to eternal life. 70% of Americans with a religious affiliation hold this view, and 68% say there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their own religion. D. Michael Lindsay, a Rice University Sociologist of Religion said, "There’s a growing pluralistic impulse toward tolerance that is having theological consequences." Americans are strongly religious: 92% believe in God, 74% believe in life after death and 63% say their respective scriptures are the word of God. Yet, more than 1 in 4 Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants and Orthodox Christians express some doubts about God’s existence, as do 6 in 10 Jews. And unexplainably, 21% of self-identified atheists believe in God or a universal spirit; 8% are "absolutely certain" of it. The majority of religious Americans believe many religions can lead to eternal life: mainline Protestants (83%), members of historic black Protestant churches (59%), Roman Catholics (79%), Jews (82%) and Muslims (56%). Yet 44% of the religiously affiliated also said their religion should preserve its traditional beliefs and practices.

(AP 6/23/08)

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