CBNnews.com - Touched by an angel? Hearing the voice of God? A recent survey says many Americans feel they've experienced both.
In a poll of 1,700 adults, 55 percent answered yes to the statement, "I was protected by a guardian angel," and 45 percent said they had at least two spiritual encounters in their life.
"I would never have expected these numbers. It was the biggest surprise to me in our findings," sociologist Christopher Bader of Baylor University said. Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion conducted the study, which concluded that Americans' religion is "remarkably stable."
The survey asked specific questions about religious groups, Christianity, mystical experiences, and other beliefs.
"The idea was to take every question you usually see on a religion survey and try to push it several levels," Bader explained.
More Surprising Results
The institute conducts its religious survey every two years. In 2005, surveys showed that about 84 percent of Americans believe in Heaven or that Heaven could exist.
Their most recent poll revealed about the same, but it also showed that 73 percent believe Hell absolutely or probably exists. About 46 percent said they were "quite certain" they'd go to Heaven, and 71 percent felt even the "irreligious" or non-believers had a chance at Heaven.
Disbelief in the paranormal was also connected to religion.
"There's an old saying that a man who no longer believes in God is ready to believe in just about anything, and it turns out our data suggests it's true," Dr. Rodney Stark, co-director of the Institute, said.
"Religious people," the study found, were less likely to believe in the occult or paranormal. Even more specifically, those who had read The Da Vinci Code were more likely to believe in paranormal activity than those who had read The Purpose Driven Life or similar books.
The study also found that megachurches are surprisingly more intimate than smaller congregations.
"We think of them as these great, huge, cold religious gatherings," Dr. Rodney Stark, co-director of the institute said. "It's not true...these people are as interested in evil and sin as anybody in any of the churches."
"Their levels of satisfaction are high, their volunteerism in community service is very high and their outreach efforts are absolutely phenomenal," he added.
Sources: Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion, USA Today