Americans Have Contradictory Beliefs

They argue for each of them with equal ardor

By on December 11th, 2009 12:01 GMT
A new study by the respected organization Pew Research Center has recently determined that Americans living in the United States tend to have a contradictory set of beliefs, but that they are willing to accept them together. The work may lead to new investigations into the human mind, which seems to be able to dismiss basic logic when it comes to a belief system. Sadly, the debate over beliefs, especially religious ones, has become taboo, and, as such, highly detrimental to society. The Pew work revealed that Americans had no problem with believing in God, astrology and ghosts at the same time, among other things, LiveScience reports.

For example, 22 percent of all respondents who qualified themselves as Christians answered that they believed in reincarnation, in the form that held that the same person returned to Earth after his or her death again and again. The same finding applied to 24 percent of the general population that was asked the same question. The fact that Christians can reconcile their own beliefs – that they will end up either in Heaven or in Hell after death – with Hindu-based ones, saying that life is a cycle and that successive reincarnations occur, is beyond researchers' abilities to explain.

In addition to these results, the investigation also revealed that no less than 15 percent of study respondents consulted a fortuneteller or a psychic, the modern-day equivalents of witches and wizards. Shy of 20 percent of all respondents said that they had either seen or felt a ghost, or experienced some other type of spectral apparitions themselves. About half of all those involved in the research explained that they had a “moment of sudden religious insight or awakening,” most often described as a religious or mystical experience. More than 4,000 people were analyzed for this research.

“The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories. Large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination – even when they are not traveling or going to special events like weddings and funerals. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects,” the Pew researchers write in their new paper.

“Many people quite simply just want to believe. The human brain is always trying to determine why things happen, and when the reason is not clear, we tend to make up some pretty bizarre explanations,” Missouri Western State University Professor of Psychology Brian Cronk concludes.

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