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Survey of American Religious Belief : A Persective August 4, 2008

Posted by Daniel Downs in covenant, God, justice, law, morality, news, politics, religion, survey.
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The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey in June. The survey presents a snap shot of the religious beliefs and practices of most Americans. The graph below shows that most Americans regardless of their religious affiliation believe many other religions can lead to eternal life. The assumed meaning of eternal life is life-after-death. A large majority of Protestants including Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus hold this view. Only Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons say there is only one way to eternal life.

On what basis do most Americans believe all religions can lead to eternal life? A more fundamental question is what does eternal life mean? Is any of this true?

First, what does eternal life mean? Some sort of continued existence beyond this physical life is a view held by all of the religions mentioned in the study. Hindus hope to avoid a reincarnation embodied in some sort of despicable animal as punish for sins. Buddhists hope for an absorption into the unified force. Muslim men dream of an eternity with seventy virgins in a heavenly oasis while Jews, Catholics, and Protestant believe in a personal existence with God in a heavenly paradise. I’m not sure about Buddhism but all of the other faiths believe a bodily resurrection will occur at some time in the future.

All religions hold the belief that eternal life will be a reward for obeying the revealed will and commands of their deity. It is evident that god(s) of Hinduism and Buddhism are not the same as the God of Judaism, Islam, or Christianity. Many claim the Allah is not the same God as HaShem or the heavenly Father God of Christians. Muslims and Jews tend to reject the deity of Jesus and a triune God.

If God exists, which religion is actually right about this deity. Previous study of religion has led me to conclude that most, if not all, historically known religions have worshiped a pantheon of deities and yet all have acknowledged one supreme god over all others. Most often, this supreme god has been referred as the sky God. The difference between many pagan religions and say Judaism and Christianity is that paganism has worshiped and served many the other deities while Judaism and Christianity only honors the Supreme Being or Creator. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity do not deny other spirit-beings exist and influence human affairs. They deny them egalitarian status or authority. Put another way, they only acknowledge and claim to follow the dictates of the Supreme God. The reason for their focused faith is partly due to their belief that only the Supreme Being is worthy of being credited with the creation of the universe and human life, which reflects this God’s nature to some extent.

It must be admitted that no logical argument can prove the existence of this Supreme God or any so-called god. The means of knowing a being who wants to be known is by personal relational experience. It is based on a revelation-confirming experience supported by rational argument that many Americans believe in the existence, immanence, and intervention of God.

In a 2000 Washington Post article, a number of public surveys of Americans and their beliefs were summarily reported. One of the interesting findings was that over 80% of Americans said miracles still occur today by the power of God. Harris Polls have consistently confirmed this level of belief in miracles. (see also the 2003 Harris Poll</a.). Between 36% to 48% of Americans surveyed says they have either witnessed or experienced a divine miracle. WorldNet Daily reported on a survey of practicing physicians. Most were affiliated with the same religions mentioned above. The researchers discovered that over 70% of the polled physicians believe divine miracles occur today as in the past. Over 55% of physicians surveyed said they had seen medical results during treatment of patients that they attributed to the miraculous. In a Christianity Today article, Brad Burke, M.D. said that probably the best documented recent miracle was showcased on Oprah Winfrey in 2002. She interviewed Dr. Clemons, a little girl name Iyanna, and her parent. This doctor confirms that not only had Iyanna died at birth with any hope of being revive, but that her coming back to life a hour later in the arms of her mother a healthy and normal infant had to be the work of God.

But, the basis of God awarding people of all religions with eternal life has yet to be fully explained.

All of the religions mentioned above teach that all people will live forever. All believe in both heaven and hell. Hell may be defined differently; yet all believe some will be punished in a place and state described as hell. To Hindus, hell is being imprisoned in the body of a terrible creature. Others believe hell is a prison where evil doers will be forever punished. Heaven, on the other hand, is a place where the good life will continue.

Still the question ‘how can all religions lead to eternal life [in heaven with God]’ has not been answered.

From the universal, the historical, and the biblical perspective, I propose that this belief of Americans cannot be true. Most, if not all, pre-modern religions offered living animal sacrifices to appease the gods in order to escape punishment for wrongs done. This presents a universal belief in a divine rule of law that demands punishment. The way to escape punishment for wrong behaviors was to offer a substitute acceptable to deity. A blameless creature was killed instead of the criminal. Some religions held the belief that they were receiving grace by satisfying a god with food thereby gaining the favor of forgiveness. Nevertheless, underlying all sacrifices of living animals or even humans for sin was the satisfaction of divine law and justice. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, also teaches that the only sentence for breaking God’s laws is death. The Hebrew prophets taught that the soul that sins will die. Jesus and his apostles continued to teach this as well. Thus, the history of religion shows that no humans believed God forgave moral crimes just because of doing good deeds. Instead, a universal belief in divine law and justice has existed in which it has been general held that death is the only sentence of divine law and justice for moral crimes.

The Supreme Being, Creator of the Universe, is also the Supreme Judge. His moral law inherent in human nature is the higher law referred to by our ancestors and founding father of America. The concept of the rule of law originates in the justice of God. Just as no human government forgives crimes committed against its laws, no humans has believed God did either. None expected God to forgive them just because they asked any more than they expect a human court to acquit them of their crime just because they ask or promise good behavior. The Supreme God is believed to be loving and compassionate not because He disregards law and justice in the name of love and tolerance, but rather because God provided a way to fully satisfy the demands of justice through which people can be given a second chance to make good on the promise of good behavior.

Substitutionary sacrifice is not a past superstitious myth. It is the only basis for both the full satisfaction of divine justice and human redemption. The revealed standard of God’s redemptive justice is the sacrifice of a soul that was not culpable of any sin, which precludes all humans. In Genesis, mammals and humans are called living souls. Certain mammals have been regarded as acceptable to God for redemptive justice. Yet, as the Hebrew prophet Isaiah pointed out, God was not pleased with the endless stream of blood sacrificed for perpetual disobedience. Isaiah prophesied about a Servant who would satisfy God’s demand for justice by suffering and dying for the sins of humanity. This Servant cannot refer to Israel or the Jews collectively because this Servant is the means of restoring both to the land. This Servant is also given by God as a light and as a covenant. The experience of Christians has led them to the conviction that Jesus is that sinless Servant, who died on the Cross as humanity’s final substitutionary sacrifice.

If this is true, there is no legitimate basis for the belief that all religions lead to heaven. Many good religious deeds do not satisfy the demands of God’s justice; only an acceptable, willing, and sinless substitute does.

If this is true, all who reject God’s provision for human crime against his moral law is without any genuine hope of God’s forgiveness or a good life throughout eternity. Whatever one’s beliefs about Jesus, the gospels and epistles are clear that Jesus is the sinless sacrifice acceptable to God. Jesus sacrificial death is the means by which God can forgive us and by which we can begin to learn how to live under the gracious rule of God. Accepting Jesus substitutionary death and his witnessed resurrection also means accepting the terms of a covenant of law and grace with God. It is an agreement to live under the government of God as a law abiding citizen–with God’s help–whether on earth or in heaven.

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Comments»

1. Matt - August 5, 2008

I would highly suggest for you, and any one else interested to read the book ““The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions.” by self-professed secular Jew and mathematics/philosophies teacher David Berlinski.
This tells the story of a Jew who was forced to dig his own grave prior to being shot by a German soldier. Prior to being shot, the old Jewish man advised the German that “God is watching what you are doing.” The Jewish gentleman pointed what i think is the real problem with atheism. “If you have the time please check the book out

2. Daniel Downs - August 5, 2008

Thanks Matt for the book suggestion. If the reviewer and author are correct, every one in this nation and world should read secular professor’s book.

3. Jesus - August 8, 2008

Laws are designed to allow people to act according to their beliefs. Jesus

4. coronda - January 16, 2009

i have a miracle that is of GOD,and no human will help me with because they(doctors)says its not medically possible for this to happen.I have a live baby in my abdomen and its been there for two full-term pregnancies,because the doctors will not help me even though they found the heartbeat and seen it move.GOD is keeping me the the baby alive even though the doctors said i would be dead,and i think they would probably want me dead to than to talk about GOD doing miracles.ive seen several doctors and they ask me to leave there office instead of helping.I think they are mad when they realise that they are not GOD.


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