Faith: What Americans Really Believe

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WASHINGTON - A new study on faith in America is providing a better view of what Americans truly believe.

Overwhelmingly, we believe in God. More than nine in ten Americans say God or a universal spirit exists.

For more on faith in America, watch Michael Palmer, dean of Regent University School of Divinity, following this report.

But surprisingly most Americans don't believe their religion is the only way to eternal life.

Which Way to God?

"For all of our life, we've always known that we need to serve something bigger than ourselves," Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said.

Ninety-two percent say they believe in God, but they have different views on who - or what - God is.

The Pew Forum Religious Survey shows Americans are a religious people. But that doesn't necessarily mean they believe their religion is the only way to salvation.

"As long as you live your life and are a good person then I respect that," one man said.

Others take the more biblical view.

"The cool thing is that even though Jesus says he's the only way, he offers it to everybody," another man said.

Of the 35,000 people surveyed, 70 percent said there are many paths to eternal life. Even among evangelical churchgoers, 57 percent shared that view.

Religion That's a Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

It appears that most Americans either don't know the fundamental teachings of their own faiths, or they dismiss them - a finding that came as a surprise to some.

"I didn't think it would be that high, and I didn't think that the figures would extend to so many different religious communities," said John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

And while 74 percent of Americans believe in life after death only 59 percent believe in hell.

One sociologist said, "The survey shows religion in America is, indeed, 3,000 miles wide and only three inches deep."

The study also showed a link between political beliefs and attendance at worship services. People who go to services regularly tend to be more traditional in their religious views and have a more conservative political outlook.

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John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Washington Correspondent

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