I have often criticized research on American religion for lumping very different kinds of Christianity (e.g., confessional Lutheran, non-creedal Nondenominational, this-worldly prosperity gospel, etc.) into one category (evangelical); for tabulating religious memberships without taking into account churches that don’t have membership; for measuring worship attendance without taking into account religions that don’t really have worship services (Hindu; Buddhist; New Age).
So I appreciate studies that try to get at what Americans actually believe. Pew Research has conducted an illuminating survey of how Americans view suffering and what they believe about the afterlife. (See the report here.) We’ll take up the first topic today and the second topic tomorrow.