Harris Poll: In the U.S., a Clear Win For Rationality — Belief In God and Heaven Declines

This Harris poll — under the headline “Americans’ Belief in God, Miracles and Heaven Declines” — is a great holiday gift.

It finds that

… [W]hile a strong majority (74%) of U.S. adults do believe in God, this belief is in decline when compared to previous years as just over four in five (82%) expressed a belief in God in 2005, 2007 and 2009.

Here are some other popular superstitions, according to the poll, along with their adherents.

Miracles: 72% of Americans believe, down from 79% in 2005.

Heaven: 68%, down from 75.

The virgin birth: 57%, down from 60.

Jesus is God, or the son of God: 68%, down from 72.

The resurrection story: 65%, down from 70.

The soul lives on after death: 64%, down from 69.

The devil, and hell: 58%, down from 62.

At the same time, more people — 47% — are swayed by the evidence of evolution, up from 42%.

The other good news is that the strongest belief in God and other superstitions is concentrated at the top of the age ladder, where it will — excuse the coldness of the observation — die away the quickest. By contrast, “echo boomers,” a.k.a. millennials, are the least likely to believe in God, heaven, the soul, and so on. If they carry that skepticism forward, and raise their kids with secular values, rational thought could begin to expand dramatically rather than glacially.


The groups most likely to be absolutely certain there is a God include blacks (70%), Republicans (65%), Matures (62%) and Baby Boomers (60%), Southerners (61%) and Midwesterners (58%), and those with a high school education or less (60%).

Perhaps more noteworthy is that only 37% of Americans now believe that God keeps an eye on us but does not control what we do. That’s down rather impressively from 2003, when 50% of Americans expressed belief in God as a chess master rather than a mere voyeur. Also,

Just under half of Americans believe that all or most of the Old Testament (49%) and the New Testament (48%) are the “Word of God,” representing declines of six percentage points each from 2008 findings.

Meanwhile, the percentage of people who believe in creationism is now the same as those who believe in UFOs, at 36%. Maybe Ken Ham ought to put a UFO landing pad on the deck of his embattled Noah’s ark attraction. That should draw ’em in.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.