Devils! Witches! Ghosts! Oh My!

We’re coming fast into the holiday season now, namely to Christmas, that highpoint of the Christian religious year. This is as good a motivation as any for the appearance in the European press of another one of those “check out those Americans and their crazy religious beliefs!” articles, and the Danish press duly delivers one: More believe in angels than in Darwin. This one keys in on a recent poll of 2,126 Americans by Harris Interactive that purports to show that only 47% of those surveyed believe in evolution, while 75% believe in miracles, 71% in angels, 59% in the Devil, 62% in Hell, and so on. That Danish article even has a handy column over on the right side (Hvor mange amerikanere tror på … ? = “How many Americans believe in . . .?”) summarizing the percentage of believers which this poll revealed for a variety of topics (e.g. God, heaven, etc.), although those unfamiliar with Danish will probably prefer to repair to that Harris Interactive webpage where the data is broken down into more extensive tables (e.g. that include “Not sure” responses) and everything is in English.

So this is just another one of those snide columns that let Europeans make fun of their cousins over on the west side of the Atlantic, right? Well, not exactly: those industrious readers who already bothered to click on my link above to the original Danish article will have seen that the publication in question in which it appears is the Kristeligt Dagblad, which is a Danish Christian newspaper. Since this is still European culture we’re talking about here, you would have to assume that a similar poll taken among that newspaper’s readers would show rather more confidence in Darwin’s theory of evolution, and rather less in angels, the virgin birth, witches, etc. Yet also among the subjects raised in that Harris Interactive poll for thumbs-up or thumbs-down were such concepts as God, Jesus as God or the Son of God, and Jesus’ resurrection – notions that after all form the core of the Christian belief that one can assume is shared by the majority of the Kristeligt Dagblad’s readers.

So no, this particular article is not one of those “mock-the-Americans” pieces. It is rather something considerably more ambiguous – and anyone is fully justified if they look at it and then wonder, “Well, what is the difference from the percentages of Kristeligt Dagblad readers who believe in these things?”

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