Belief in God on Easter 2015 may be under assault at home and abroad, but the faith of Christianity, itself, in the United States of America remains strong. In total, just under 4 in 5 Americans (79 percent) identify as Christians, an increase of two points from the year prior, with 70 percent believing Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Similarly, a recent Rasmussen Reports survey conducted on March 31- April 1, 2015 found 66 percent of Americans believe that Jesus was not only the son of God, but was resurrected on Easter Day.
Easter remains one of the most important holidays to Christian Americans, but attendance at religious services is likely to be down this year, which underscores a fundamental problem with church leadership in America. Roughly 40 percent of Christians say they will attend services this Easter, down significantly from the year prior.
Bill O’Reilly, the host of The O’Reilly Factor on FOX News, has recently ramped up criticism of the church leadership in America, making many of the same points made in OVR (see below). Overall, there is a significant disconnect between church heads and the faithful, with many Americans of faith claiming to have a relationship with Jesus Christ yet reporting decreased attendance.
Thirty-nine percent of all Americans (not just Christians) say Easter is one of our nation’s most important holidays, taking a back seat to Christmas once again. Another Rasmussen survey found that 19 percent think it’s among the least important holidays, while 38 percent place it somewhere in between.
A majority of Americans continue to say their religious faith is important in their daily lives and that the nation would be better off (53 percent) if more citizens practiced faith more often, including 51 percent who say religion should never have been taken out of the school system.
A Rasmussen survey, too, found an identical 53 percent saying America would be a better place if most people attended religious services on a regular basis, while just 7 percent think the country would be worse off. The remaining 30 percent who had a response said more religious attendance would have no impact on society. Ten percent said they are not sure.
Now for the elephant in the room.
The headlines regarding the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts in various states, including Indiana and Arkansas, also demonstrate the delicate balance regarding Americans’ faith and their views on the relationship between church and state. Religious freedom is an issue they find to be of great important, and they are paying attention. A whopping 76 percent of voters say they have closely followed recent news reports, including 33 percent who are following “very closely.”
Not surprisingly, those who say they are following the news the closest show slightly more support for similar laws in their state, but also have the strongest concern that such laws discriminate against gays and lesbians.
A recent Associated Press/Gfk poll found that 57 percent of Americans believe Christian owners of wedding-related businesses with religious objections should be allowed to refuse service to same sex couples, while 39 percent said no.
Other polls are even more favorable to the faithful.
In the most recent Rasmussen poll this month, 70 percent agreed that Christian wedding photographers and the like who have deeply held religious beliefs that oppose gay marriage have the right to turn down the job. However, that’s down a hair from 73 percent in 2014 and 85 percent in 2013 after a New Mexico photographer was sued for that very reason. Nineteen percent disagree, while 12 percent are not sure.
Just 27 percent of voters believe gay rights groups and the media accurately portray religious freedom laws like the one in Indiana. Fifty-one percent (51%) disagree and think they make the laws sound more discriminatory than they really are. A sizable 22% are undecided.
Still, likely underscoring Americans’ deep distrust of government, 53 percent of voters are concerned that religious freedom laws will lead to widespread discrimination against gays and lesbians, including 30 percent who are “very concerned.” But 43 percent don’t share this concern, at all, with 22 percent who are “not at all concerned.”
A Public Religious Research Institute poll found 54 percent of American adults say the right of religious freedom is under assault in America, while 41 percent said it is not.
That’s a lot of data to digest, but what does it all mean?
The takeaway depends on who is asking?
For church pastors or other positions leading a flock of faithful, these results are disturbing. Confidence in organized religion is at an all-time low (44 percent) in American, despite a solid majority (57 percent) still believing the tenets of God’s law and faith can solve most of the nation’s challenges.
Only 53 percent are totally satisfied with church leadership and their influence on society, down from 69 percent in 2002, while a rising 39 percent are totally dissatisfied.
For secular progressives, one might take solace in the fact Americans remain reluctant to turn to government to force their views on others, even as more disagree with their views. That may seem ironic to those who instinctively turn to government to solve society’s problems, but the majority of Americans are just not willing to do so.
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