American religion is remarkably stable and quite surprising in its diverse beliefs, practices and realities, according to the latest findings from the Baylor Religion Survey, one of the most extensive surveys ever conducted on American religious attitudes.
During the past 63 years, several polls show the percentage of atheists has not changed at all, holding steady at only 4 percent of Americans who say they do not believe in God. Not only is atheism not growing in the United States, the majority of Europeans are not atheists (Ch. 14, ”Atheism: The Godless Revolution That Never Happened”). Russia now claims 96 percent of its population believes in God, while a recent poll of China showed that atheists are outnumbered by those who believe in God(s).
In both the 2005 and 2007 Baylor Religion Surveys, researchers found than 11 percent of the national sample reported they had ”no religion.” […] Delving into the actual religiousness of those who report having no religion, the Baylor Survey found that a majority of Americans who claim to be irreligious pray (and 32 percent pray often), around a third of them profess belief in Satan, hell and demons, and around half believe in angels and ghosts.
If anything, these experiences are an overlooked aspect of America’s national religious life. The Baylor Religion Survey asked respondents about: hearing the voice of God, feeling called by God to do something, being protected by a guardian angel, witnessing and/or receiving a miraculous physical healing, and speaking or praying in tongues. The ISR researchers found that such experiences are central to American religion.
Bader was stunned by the percentage of Americans – 55 percent – who said they were protected from harm by a guardian angel. ”That was something that was a complete surprise because this is not a question, do you believe in guardian angels or do you believe in angels. This is a very specific question: Do you believe you have been protected from harm by a guardian angel? Do you believe you avoided an accident through the agency of a guardian angel? To find out that more than half of the American public believes this was shocking to me. I did not expect that.”
The survey found that 45 percent of Americans report having at least two religious encounters (Ch. 6, ”Religious Experiences: God Told Me to Go to Church”).