Fifty-Seven Percent of Americans Believe Religion Holds the Answers to “Today’s Problems”
The world we live in today has been shaped by the scientific advancements of our past. We no longer live in fear of smallpox or polio or German measles (rubella). We carry in our pockets a device that can access almost any information or any person in the world instantly. Through telescopes hanging in space, we’ve seen light from the beginning of time. In a world of scientific marvels like this, does religion have any of the answers we need for today’s problems?
A recent Gallup poll shows that 57 percent of Americans believe “that religion can answer all or most of today’s problems, while 30 [percent] say that religion is largely old fashioned and out of date.” While this may still seem high, this number represents a slow decline in the number of Americans who think faith has the answers. In 1957 82 percent of Americans thought religion held all the answers, and that fell to 62 percent in 1974 where it would remain (roughly) for the next 30 years.
What this actually means, I suppose, depends on your definition of “answer today’s problems.” Almost all religions preach the benefits of being kind, selfless, and moral, which is good advice for almost any situation. However, one would be hard-pressed to find answers in the Torah, Bible, or Qur’an to problems surrounding digital privacy and surveillance.
Religion or myth is crucial to the fabric of humanity. Mythologist Joseph Campbell spent his life studying the varying myths of cultures separated by time and distance only to find remarkable similarities. When humans didn’t know how the sun rose or set every night, storytellers soothed their curiosity with tales of fiery birds and golden chariots. For those of us who value science and reason over stories for the answers to our most pressing concerns, 57 percent is number that is still far too high.
Photo by ccarlstead via Flickr