Survey Results from Soc.Religion.Christian

In October of 1996 I began sending out surveys to soc.religion.christian in an effort to determine "where Christians stand on the big issues". Fifty people were kind enough to respond over the 3 month period that the survey was being conducted, and the results have been tallied below. There were a few gray areas during the interpretation of some of the responses, but I've tried to group them as best I can.

Tallying these results was suprisingly difficult. Part of the reason for this was the fairly open-ended manner in which I asked the questions. Several respondents remarked on the vagueness of the questions, which was done intentionally to compel people to explain there beliefs in more detail. I feel that I've captured the gist of the major types of responses below, and if you are interested the actual responses are available.

There are several sources of error in this survey. The first is that the format is such that people can read the survey before deciding to respond. This may result in preventing people who feel uncomfortable with the questions from answering. Four-fifths of the respondents are male, and the majority of net users have a high education, both of which also skew the results.

One person remarked a question of ethnic background should have included, and another said that the version of the Bible, as well as the role of the Church and authority in general should have been explored. I agree with these sentiments, as well as the latter person's criticism of the somewhat vague term "literal". One comment that I did not agree with was the need for questions on who and what Christ is, primarily because I assumed that most Christians would not differ in opinion on this subject. Also, about half-way through the survey I changed "have you ever worked on Sunday" to "have you ever worked on the Sabbath".

Each of the questions are below, along with any comments that I had, as well as the number of responses. The original letter is also available. Note that one atheist responded, which explains some of the more nonstandard answers.

1) What is your sex?

2) What is your occupation?

3) How old are you?

4) To what denomination, if any, do you subscribe?

One person said they were a United Methodist communicating member (?). Also notice the large number of people who referred to themselves as "nondenominational". I would also guess that several of the "nones" also fall in this category.

5) How often do you attend church?

6) Have you had a personal experience with God?

#40 said, "I used to think I had, on several occasions, but I have since concluded that what I experienced was simply an emotional experience caused, not by divine intervention, but by the overwhelming religious expectation of an experience that had been instilled in me by the church environment." One person said "common", whatever that means.

7) Are you active in church activities such as the choir, Sunday school, youth groups, etc.?

8) Do you attend Bible studies or do daily devotions?

9) Do you pray before meals at home? at restaurants?

At home:

At restaurants:
10) Do you drink alcohol? swear?

Swear in this case meant foul language, not "Biblical swearing".


11) Do you consider the Bible to be literally inerrant? If not, to what extent do you believe it to be the word of God? (inspired by God but written by humans, the concepts are inerrant, the originals were inerrant but have been mistranslated, etc.)

I got a range of answers for this one, which was expected given the complex subject.

12) Have any of the original manuscripts for the books of the Bible survived to this day? (yes, no, don't know)

The majority of people showed good knowledge on this one.

13) Do you believe in a literal view of creation as described in Genesis 1-2? If not, what does this scripture mean to you? (days mean eons, the account is allegorical, etc.)

People seemed split on this one. About 2/5 believed in a "literal" view of Genesis, while the same number thought of the account as allegory or myth.

14) Did a global flood happen as described in Genesis 6-9?

15) Is the popular "big bang" theory of the origin of the universe valid? (yes, no, maybe)

Happily, about the same number of people who believed in a literal account of Genesis do not think the big bang theory is valid

16) Is the earth less than 5,000 years old?

In hindsight, I should have raised the limit on the years.

17) What is evolution?

By the way, biological evolution is defined as "any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next". This means that evolution is a genetic phenomenon, not the result of better health. (In the next question, people gave increased height and better teeth as examples of microevolution.)

18) Do you believe the theory of so-called "microevolution" -- that small changes might occur in a species?

19) Do you believe the theory of "macroevolution" -- that one type of creature may radically change its characteristics over time?

Nearly everyone believes in microevolution, but people seem to be divided on macroevolution. If I had the time, it would be interesting to see if there is a correlation with age or level of education on this one.

20) Do you consider the theories of evolution and the big bang to be contrary to Christianity?

21) Do you think that science is at odds with religion in general, and Christianity in particular?

One person wrote, "I have not checked but I suspect that the share of believing Christians among great scientists is neither extraordinarily low nor high." In the academic circles that I've been in, the number of Christians seems lower. If there is enough interest, maybe this could be another survey...

22) Do you consider the New Testament accounts of Jesus to be literal? If not, to what extent do you accept them? (Jesus' words are literal but the miracles aren't, the virgin birth is doubtful, etc.)

Again, I should have used the phrase "historically accurate" instead of literal.

23) Did Moses write the first five books of the Old Testament? (yes, no, it is not known, I don't know)

24) Did Matthew, Mark, Luke, John write the first four books of the New Testament? (yes, no, it is not known, I don't know)

On this question and the previous, some people mentioned the JEDP theories of the writers of the Old Testament put forth by biblical scholars. Most, however, accept the traditional authors.

25) Do you believe divorce acceptable in cases other than adultery?

26) To what extent is homosexuality a sin? (being a homosexual, practicing homosexuality, etc.)

There was a suprisingly open attitude toward homosexuality. The first group of people equivocated being homosexual with practicing homosexuality. Some people held homosexual behavior to the same standards as heterosexual behavior, and some said flat out that it was not a sin.

27) Do you consider marriages between Christians and Non-christians to be morally wrong?

28) Have you ever worked on the Sabbath?

29) Do you consider the Bible to be the ultimate reference on all issues of morality?

30) Do you believe that it is possible for people of other religions to go to heaven? Atheists?

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