An August Pew Forum poll, recently released, that reports that 65% of Americans believe that other religions are just fine as avenues to heaven. Indeed, atheists might be surprised to know that a majority think they'll be going to heaven as well.In addition, the survey breaks down what specific segments of the population believe about the "saving powers" of other faiths.
The reason for my bringing this up here is because I am in agreement with the title -- and most of the content -- of Rowe's post below. Even though much has changed in America's religious landscape, there is still a great deal that remains the same. As Rowe points out, only an estimated 17% of the American population -- give or take a couple of points -- belonged to a particular church in Colonial America. And while these numbers are certainly influenced by other factors -- long distances to travel, illnesses, harvest season, etc. -- the numbers certainly do demonstrate the fact that religious affiliation was not nearly as cut-and-dry as we might think.
Historian Whitney Cross adds credence to this notion in his book, The Burned-over District, which, among other things, focuses on the influence of enthusiastic religion on the common citizen. As Cross points out:
The majority of churchgoers during the turn of the century found it supremely difficult to profess any one specific religion, and instead chose to attend a variety of different denominations without ever officially pledging their allegiance to one in particular (41).This at least partially explains why so many religions of early America were so passionate in their revivals, demanding of the people's loyalty, and insistent in their assertions that their way was the ONLY way to God. Simply put, there were a lot of unaffiliated souls out there to be saved, and pastors faced a tremendous amount of competition in saving them.
And while I agree with my fellow blogger in his assertion that the majority of Christians today, and in colonial times "just didn't seem to care too much" about the particulars of their faith -- i.e. Transubstantiation, the Trinity, infallibility of the Bible, etc -- I do disagree on one important point: I do not see how the modern mainstream interpretation of Christianity is compatible with Jefferson's assertion that Unitarianism is "really the religion of all." While most Americans may rejects or simply ignore certain specifics of their faith, most still do maintain an allegiance to the broad doctrines of Christianity, which never seemed to sit well with Mr. Jefferson. To be certain, Jefferson was a passionate reader of the Bible. His dissection of the "Good Book," which he hoped would bring to light the "true" doctrines of Christ is a good example of Jefferson's devotion to seeking after religious truth. However, Jefferson's dissection of the Bible also helps to reveal many of his particular beliefs. For example, his removal of virtually all of Christ's miracles, including his resurrection, shows that Jefferson thought little of the notion that Christ was divine. This belief in Jesus as nothing more than a "really super awesome" philosopher would not jive with most Christians -- then and now -- who, despite their lack of knowledge of certain particulars, still revere Jesus as the divine Son of God.
So while most Americans (then and now) lack an understanding of the particulars of their respective faith(s), and while the majority of Americans (then and now) maintain a loose allegiance (or no allegiance) to a particular faith, the fact remains that the majority of Americans (then and now) still hold the BASIC doctrines of Christianity to be absolute truths. What would Jefferson have to say about this I wonder???