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Americans embrace pluralism, poll says

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A majority of Americans mostly reject universalism -- the belief that all people will be saved -- but nevertheless believe that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, with a plurality saying that good works are the key to entrance into heaven, according to a new analysis of Barna surveys.

The data, released April 18, shows that millions of adults reject the clear teachings of Scripture that faith alone, in Christ alone is necessary for salvation. Although Americans may distance themselves from universalism, they tend to embrace pluralism -- the belief that different religions lead to heaven.

By a 48-44 percent margin, U.S. adults believe that "if a person is generally good or does enough good things for others, they will earn a place in heaven." Also, 59 percent of Americans believe that "Christians and Muslims worship the same God," although only 43 percent believe that "the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truth."

Americans tend to reject universalism, although large percentages of adults accept it:

-- 55 percent of Americans disagree with the statement that "all people will experience the same outcome after death, regardless of their religious beliefs"; 40 percent agree.

-- 54 percent disagree that "it doesn't matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lesson"; 43 percent agree.


-- 50 percent disagree that "all people are eventually saved or accepted by God, no matter what they do, because he loves all people he has created"; 40 percent agree.

Sixty-nine percent of adults agree that "in life you either side with God or you side with the devil; there is no in-between position"; 37 percent disagree.

Additionally, 51 percent of Americans believe they "have a responsibility to tell other people their religious beliefs."

The survey was based on data collected during telephone surveys between 2005 and 2011. Each survey had at least 1,000 respondents.

Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. The entire report is available at

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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