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Monday, September 22, 2008

Most Americans Believe Angels Helped Them

More than half of Americans—55 percent—say they have been protected from harm by a guardian angel, a finding that stunned researchers at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University in Texas. The high percentage of people who hold this belief, which seems to reach across religious, regional, and educational lines, is "a complete surprise because this is not a question, do you believe in guardian angels or do you believe in angels. This is a very specific question: Do you believe you have been protected from harm by a guardian angel? Do you believe you avoided an accident through the agency of a guardian angel?" says Christopher Bader, a sociologist at Baylor and an ISR researcher. "To find out that more than half of the American public believes this was shocking to me. I did not expect that."
The question was part of a broad survey of the nation's religious beliefs and practices that the institute conducted in 2007 with help from the Gallup Organization. According to the poll, which surveyed nearly 1,700 Americans, 45 percent of people say they've had at least two religious encounters—and while conservative Protestants are more likely to report religious or mystical encounters than are liberal Protestants, Catholics, or Jews, the researchers found such experiences occur with considerable frequency in nearly all religious groups.
As in the first wave of the survey in 2005, 11 percent of respondents said they had "no religion," yet two-thirds of the people in this group still expressed some belief in God and many were found to be merely "unchurched" rather than "irreligious." A majority of Americans who say they're irreligious still pray (with 32 percent praying often), and about a third of them say they believe in Satan, hell, and demons. About half believe in angels and ghosts.
These and other results from the survey have been released in a new book called What Americans Really Believe, written by Rodney Stark, a social sciences professor and co-director of the ISR. —Heather Wax

1 comments:

V.V. Raman said...

<"Do you believe you have been protected from harm by a guardian angel? Do you believe you avoided an accident through the agency of a guardian angel?" says Christopher Bader, a sociologist at Baylor and an ISR researcher. "To find out that more than half of the American public believes this was shocking to me. I did not expect that.">

This may be shocking to ivory tower analysts who have no contact with the average person except via questionnaires, and no inkling of how people think about matters touching their personal lives. Not just Americans, Catholics, and Protestants, but Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews: the vast majority of humankind would give a similar answer to the survey.
There is no rational explanation for the fact that some people escape an airline crash or a hurricane ravage or a universal epidemic or a devastating tsunami, while others perish.
Most normal human beings who grow up in cultures which have a religious framework attribute their totally unexpected survival from any such disaster to some unseen factor that intervened in their favor: an angel, a deity, a merciful God, a propitious star, or whatever.
When one says it was due to pure chance or simply uses the word “fortunately,” one is merely substituting one’s ignorance for a supernatural factor.
To say “I really don’t know how I survived when the guy near me died in the accident” may be more satisfying to some, and to say, “I was protected by a guardian angel” may be more meaningful to others. There is nothing to be impressed by one answer or be shocked by the other.