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Study: 42% of US adults are not 'absolutely certain' there is a God

Published: Wednesday November 1, 2006

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A new study of U.S. adults finds that 42 percent are not "absolutely certain" there is a God, but only 1 percent believe that God could be female.

An online Harris Poll also finds that 15 percent are "somewhat certain" God exists, while 11 percent think there is probably no God and 16 percent said that they weren't sure.

According to the study, only 76 percent of Protestants, 64 percent of Catholics, and 30 percent of Jews chose "absolutely certain," as opposed to 93 percent of Christians who describe themselves as "Born Again."

A press release issued by the polling firm explained why the online poll differed from past studies conducted over the telephone.

"Over the last few years, several different surveys have found that more people admit to potentially embarrassing beliefs or behaviors when answering online surveys (without interviewers) than admit to these behaviors when talking to interviewers in telephone surveys," the press release stated.

Excerpts from press release:


Differences between different demographic groups

Demographic groups that are more likely to say they are absolutely certain that there is a God include:

* People in all age groups 40 and over (63% of those ages 40 to 49, 65% of
  those ages 50 to 64 and 65% of those ages 65 and over) compared to
  people in age groups under 40 (45% of those ages 18 to 24, 43% of those
  ages 25 to 29 and 54% of those ages 30 to 39);

* Women (62%) slightly more than men (54%);

* African Americans (71%) compared to Hispanics (61%) and Whites (57%);

* Republicans (73%) more than Democrats (54%) or Independents (51%);

* People with no college education (62%) or who have some college
  education (57%) compared to college graduates (50%) and those with post-
  graduate degrees (53%).

Frequency of attending religious services

Approximately one-third (35%) of all adults claim to attend a religious service once a month or more often, including 26 percent who say they attend every week or more often. Almost half of all adults (46%) say they attend services a few times a year or less often, while eighteen percent say the never attend religious services.

Those who attend religious services once a month or more often include 48 percent of Protestants, 46 percent of Catholics, and 12 percent of Jews. However, more than two-thirds (68%) of Born Again Christians attend Church once a month or more often.

Is God male or female?

The public is almost equally divided between those who think of God as male (36%) and "neither male nor female" (37%), with 10 percent saying "both male and female." Only one percent thinks of God as a female.

Does God have a human form?

A substantial plurality of the public (41%) thinks of God as "a spirit or power that can take on human form but is not inherently human." Just over one- quarter (27%) thinks of God as a "spirit or power that does not take on human form," while only nine percent of adults think of God as being "like a human being with a face, body, arms, legs, eyes, etc."

How much control does God have over events on earth?

Less than one-third of all adults (29%) believe that God "controls what happens on Earth" (this includes 57% of Born Again Christians). A plurality (44%) believes that God "observes but does not control what happens on Earth."

Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

About half (51%) of all adults, including a majority of Catholics (63%), believe that Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God. One-third (32%) believes they do not and 16 percent are not sure. On this question, as on the others, the views of Born Again Christians are different - a 54 percent majority believes they do not worship the same God and only 34 percent believe they do.

Are believers declining?

Three years ago, in an identical survey, 79 percent of adults said they believed in God and 66 percent said they were absolutely certain that there is a God. In this new survey, those numbers have declined to 73 percent and 58 percent respectively.