Religious Differences Over the Death Penalty

According to a recent survey of about 2,000 American adults conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 62 percent favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 31 percent oppose it. (Click on image for larger view.)

The report also notes that:

Majorities of major religious groups, except for black Protestants, favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder. Roughly three-quarters of white evangelical Protestants (77%) and white mainline Protestants (73%) support the death penalty. Somewhat fewer white Catholics (61%), Hispanic Catholics (57%) and the religiously unaffiliated (57%) favor capital punishment for convicted murderers.

Our Biggest Regrets

Neal Roese, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Mike Morrison of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign analyzed data from 370 American adults to find the most common sources of regret. (Click on image for larger view.)

Do Very Religious Americans Lead Healthier Lives?

Apparently so, according to a new data analysis by Gallup researchers, who controlled for age, race, and other demographic differences. They found that very religious Americans—those who say religion is an important part of daily life and who attend religious services almost every week—tend to make healthier lifestyle choices than those who are moderately religious or nonreligious. They smoke less, eat better, and exercise more regularly. (Click on image for larger view.)

This makes sense. After all, many religions have specific rules related to eating, drinking, or smoking. But does religion really cause people to lead healthier lives? Could it be that healthier people are more likely to be religious? The researchers aren’t sure, but they note that:

Healthier people may be more likely and able to attend religious services than those who are less healthy.
It may also be possible that certain types of individuals are more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices and more likely to choose to be highly religious. The most parsimonious explanation, however, may be the most intuitive: Those who capitalize on the social and moral outcomes of religious norms and acts are more likely to lead lives filled with healthier choices.

A Small Decrease in Belief in Creationism

According to a new Gallup poll, 40 percent of Americans still believe that God created human beings in their present form about 10,000 years ago, though that number is a little lower than in past years. Among the rest, 38 percent believe in what’s called “theistic evolution,” the idea that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms with God guiding the process. And 16 percent hold the “secular evolution” view that humans developed over millions of years with no involvement or influence from God—a number that has risen slightly over the years.

Still, the shifts are small, and Frank Newport, the editor in chief of Gallup, interprets the findings as showing that “the basic structure of beliefs about human beings’ origins is generally the same as it was in the early 1980s.” (Click on image for larger view.)

It should come as no surprise that:

Americans’ views on human origins vary significantly by level of education and religiosity. Those who are less educated are more likely to hold a creationist view. Those with college degrees and postgraduate education are more likely to hold one of the two viewpoints involving evolution.
Americans who attend church frequently are most likely to accept explanations for the origin of humans that involve God, not a surprising finding. Still, the creationist viewpoint, held by 60 percent of weekly churchgoers, is not universal even among the most highly religious group. Also, about a fourth of those who seldom or never attend church choose the creationist view.

Here are the survey results broken down by education:

And here are the results broken down by church attendance:

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