Americans are tolerant of other religions: survey

June 24th, 2008 - 9:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, June 24 (IANS) In a trend toward tolerance and non-dogmatism, nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that religions other than their own can lead to salvation, according to a new survey on ‘Religion and Public Life’. Although a majority of Americans - 56 percent - say religion is very important to them, the survey by the Washington-based Pew Forum reveals an ability among many Americans to hold beliefs that might contradict the doctrines of their professed faiths.

Almost 70 percent of those affiliated with a religion or denomination said they agreed that “many religions can lead to eternal life.” They included majorities from Protestants and Catholics. Among Evangelical Christians, 57 percent agreed with the statement, and among Catholics, 79 percent did.

Among minority faiths, more than 80 percent of Jews, Hindus and Buddhists agreed with the statement, and more than half of Muslims did.

Although Indian origin faiths profess multifarious paths to God, the concept is less common among other religions. So the survey findings seem to undercut the conventional wisdom that the more religiously committed people are, the more intolerant they are.

“It’s not that Americans don’t believe in anything,” Michael Lindsay, assistant director of the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life at Rice University was quoted as saying in the media. “It’s that we believe in everything. We aren’t religious purists or dogmatists.”

The survey, which is based on telephone interviews with more than 35,000 Americans from May 8 to Aug. 13, 2007, is the second instalment of a broad assessment Pew has undertaken of trends and characteristics of the country’s religious life.

The picture emerging from the first part of the report, published in February, was of a fluid and diverse national religious life marked by people moving among denominations and faiths.

According to that report, more than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion. Sixteen percent of American adults say they are not part of any organised faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth-largest “religious group”.

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