Seventy-nine percent of Americans believe that, as the Bible says, Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, without a human father, according to a new NEWSWEEK poll on beliefs about Jesus.
Sixty-seven percent say they believe that the entire story of Christmas--the Virgin Birth, the angelic proclamation to the shepherds, the Star of Bethlehem and the Wise Men from the East--is historically accurate. Twenty-four percent of Americans believe the story of Christmas is a theological invention written to affirm faith in Jesus Christ, the poll shows. In general, say 55 percent of those polled, every word of the Bible is literally accurate. Thirty-eight percent do not believe that about the Bible.
In the NEWSWEEK poll, 93 percent of Americans say they believe Jesus Christ actually lived and 82 percent believe Jesus Christ was God or the Son of God. Fifty-two percent of all those polled believe, as the Bible proclaims, that Jesus will return to earth someday; 21 percent do not believe it. Fifteen percent believe Jesus will return in their lifetime; 47 percent do not, the poll shows.
When asked if there would be more or less kindness in the world today if there had never been a Jesus, 61 percent of all those polled say there would be less kindness. Forty-seven percent say there would be more war if there had never been a Jesus (16 percent say less, 26 percent say the same); 63 percent say there would be less charity; 58 percent say there would be less tolerance; 59 percent say there would be less personal happiness and 38 percent say there would be less religious divisions (21 percent say more and 26 percent say the same).
Just 11 percent of those surveyed say American society as a whole very closely reflects true Christian values and the spirit of Jesus; 53 percent say it somewhat reflects those values. But 86 percent say they believe organized religion has a "a lot" or "some" influence over life in the United States today. Nine percent say it has "only a little" influence.
Sixty-two percent say they favor teaching creation science in addition to evolution in public schools; 26 percent oppose such teaching, the poll shows. Forty-three percent favor teaching creation science instead of evolution in public schools; 40 percent oppose the idea.
For this NEWSWEEK Poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates interviewed by telephone 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older on Dec. 2 and Dec. 3. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Editor's note: In one part of the this story, preliminary results were used, instead of final numbers. The paragraph on creation science should have said: "Sixty percent say they favor teaching creation science in addition to evolution in public schools; 28 percent oppose such teaching, the poll shows. Forty percent favor teaching creation science instead of evolution in public schools; 44 percent oppose the idea."