WASHINGTON - Religious differences often lead to war, terror attacks, and persecution, but Americans seem to be remarkably tolerant of each others' religions.
David Campbell, co-author of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, conducted two of the largest polls of religious believers to find out why.
He found that Americans are the most devout believers of any industrialized nation in the world -- even slightly more than Iran, where many Muslims are radically committed to their faith.
Yet, compared to other countries, there's virtually no serious religious bigotry or persecution in the U.S.
"Americans over the last generation or so have come to connect with one another across religious lines," Campbell said at a Pew Forum meeting in Washington, D.C. "Almost every American has within their close circuit of friends, often in their family, often within their very household, someone of another faith. Which in turn breeds acceptance of other faiths, because these are the people you love."
"It's really hard to demonize someone, even if they're of another faith, if they're close to you," he added.
Statistics show about half of Americans now marry someone of another faith. One-third have changed religions. And more than 80 percent don't believe their religion is the only path to heaven.
"Even when you push them and say 'Does that include -- if they're Christians -- faiths that are not Christian?'Iit still turns out that a high percentage, I mean overwhelming majorities of Americans say 'Yes, actually people of other faiths can go to heaven,'" Campbell said.
Of all religions, Campbell's research revealed Americans are most negative towards Muslims, Buddhists, and Mormons.
Campbell suggested that's because most Americans aren't linked to those faiths.