3 for Thursday: 3 Takeaways from Pew’s Christmas Survey

Survey-featA Christmas survey? Around Christmas time? What? That’s impossible.

Okay, it might be exactly what one expects, but still there are a few interesting numbers from the recent Pew survey, particularly on the virgin birth.

1) How many Americans think the Christmas story is right on the details?

“In total, 65% of U.S. adults believe that all of these aspects of the Christmas story – the virgin birth, the journey of the magi, the angel’s announcement to the shepherds and the manger story – reflect events that actually happened. Among U.S. Christians, fully eight-in-ten (81%) believe in all four elements of the Christmas story.”

2) Unaffiliated opinion does not mean atheist opinion.

“Among religious “nones,” 21% believe in all four elements of the Christmas story, 37% believe in at least one (but not all), and 42% do not believe that any part of the Christmas story mentioned in the survey reflects an event that actually occurred.”

These numbers among the unaffiliated do demonstrate that diversity of the group. One can’t simply say that “nones” are atheists. As Aaron Blake says at The Washington Post, “among unaffiliated Americans, fully 30 percent say the Baby Jesus was born to a virgin, and 53 percent — a majority! — say he was laid in a manger…For people who don’t appear to be religious, a lot of them seem to believe what’s written in the Bible.”

It would be helpful is surveys done by Pew or PRRI could get far more specific on the unaffiliated element. Ask them to identify in a more specific category and note that some would prefer to identify not simply as atheist or agnostic, but as secular humanist, skeptic, freethinker, etc. Separating these out from the spiritual but not religious might make the “nones” category far more interesting and helpful.

3) Symbols of faith on government property Okay?

 “…A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 44% of Americans say Christian symbols like nativity scenes should be allowed on government property even if they are not accompanied by symbols from other religions. In addition, 28% of U.S. adults say that such symbols should be permitted, but only if they are accompanied by symbols from other religions, such as Hanukkah candles. One-in-five (20%) say there should be no religious displays on government property, period..”.

The evangelical numbers on this are probably what you might expect. “Nearly six-in-ten evangelical Protestants (including two-thirds of white evangelicals),” says the survey, “say Christian symbols should be allowed on government property regardless of whether or not other faiths are also represented.”

For more, check out the full survey at Pew. It has a lot of interesting numbers.

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