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Atheists Who Believe in a God and Lutherans Who Don’t

Gene Veith blogs on the recent Pew Religion Survey (full report PDF):

My favorite fact of the study: One out of five ATHEISTS believe in God or a universal spirit. And nearly half of all AGNOSTICS (defined as someone who does not know whether or not God exists) report believing in God or a universal spirit.

That’s worth a chuckle, but the Lutheran Kantor finds disturbing numbers:

The survey classified the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) to be an Evangelical denomination. Based on the survey results of the 588 LCMS respondents, the LCMS is very open minded and tolerant. So open minded and tolerant that 78% of the LCMS respondents believe that “many religions can lead to eternal life.” We beat the national average! That’s not something to be proud of.

Other statistics about the 588 surveyed:

  • Only 84% are absolutely certain there is a god; 12% are fairly certain.
  • 9% seldom go to church; 2% never do.
  • Only 42% said the Bible should be taken literally.
  • 28% believe there is one correct way to interpret scripture.

For all our efforts to divide the human populace between “churched” and “unchurched” for programmatic and spending purposes, this data shows that we cannot take the beliefs of the “churched” for granted.

I am glad we’re referred to as an evangelical denomination rather than a mainline one. :)

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  1. […] Survey we blogged about, which gives some embarrassing data about Missouri Synod Lutherans. From Atheists That Believe in a God and Lutherans That Don’t: Gene Veith blogs on the recent Pew Religion Survey (full report PDF): My favorite fact of the […]

  2. Jim says:

    Egads, I hope that 42% of our denomination doesn’t take the Bible “literally”! After all, the Augsburg Confession expressly rejects a “literal” interpretation of the millenium. So you can’t be a biblical literalist and a confessional Lutheran. (And I also doubt that Jesus is literally a lamb, or a lion, or that he literally has a two-edged sword coming out of his mouth.)

    Also, lots of people think that “religion” means “denomination.” So I’d want some followup questions before we concluded that LCMS Christians are more pluralistic on average than the average American.

  3. Dan says:

    If I were posed this question:

    Question: Which comes closest to your view? [INSERT NAME OF HOLY BOOK]** is the word of God, OR [INSERT NAME OF HOLY BOOK] is a book written by men and is not the word of God. [IF HOLY BOOK IS WORD OF GOD, ASK]: And would you say that [INSERT NAME OF HOLY BOOK] is to be taken literally, word for word, OR not everything in [INSERT NAME OF HOLY BOOK] should be taken literally, word for word?
    **Insert “the Bible” for Christians and the unaffiliated, “the Torah” for Jews, “the Koran” for Muslims, “the Holy Scripture” for other non-Christian religious groups.

    I would answer first that the Holy Bible is the Word of God.

    Now the second part of the question would then read, Is the Holy Bible to be taken literally, word for word, or not?

    And I would admit that I would impose a cultural lens on that question. When I read that question, I don’t read that to declare that there are no metaphors in the Bible. Often the text itself provides its own clues as to what is metaphor and what isn’t. I’ll read a question like that as if it were to ask: Do you really believe in the six-day creation? Did God actually park the sun (halt the earth’s spin?) in Joshua 10:1? The parting of the Red Sea? More importantly, the virgin birth, the perfect life of the God-man Jesus Christ, his death, resurrection, ascension, for the atonement of our sins? This is my body, etc.? And I would say yes to all that, because I would determine that is what the questioner is really asking.

    So I guess the questioned should ask what the questioner really is saying. :)

  4. […] Veith pointed the way to a few other bloggers who have been looking at the LCMS-specific numbers coming out of that massive Pew report […]

  5. Tory W. Sumrall says:

    One number is particularly encouraging – if “9% seldom go to church; 2% never do”, then we must assume the other 89% go to church fairly often. And if they stay in the pew long enough, absorbing the Word and partaking in the Sacraments, then the rest of the information will change in time. We do have a responsibility, however, to make sure our pastors are preaching the pure Word.

  6. Jim says:

    Perhaps I’m overreacting.

    My main referent on the “literal” thing is all those dispensationalists who insist that Rev 20 must be taken “literally,” and that you do not really believe the Bible unless you take every part of it literally. I’d agree with you, no problem, if the Pew question only means, “Do you believe the Bible is literally the Word of God,” as opposed to “Do you believe that the Bible must be taken literally.”