This time it is about What Americans Really Believe.
One important finding is that the new atheism never really happened.
During the past 63 years, several polls show the percentage of atheists has not changed at all, holding steady at only 4 percent of Americans who say they do not believe in God. Not only is atheism not growing in the United States, the majority of Europeans are not atheists (Ch. 14, "Atheism: The Godless Revolution That Never Happened"). Russia now claims 96 percent of its population believes in God, while a recent poll of China showed that atheists are outnumbered by those who believe in God(s).The importance of Dawkins and his disciples then may not be so much in converting people to atheism (whatever that is), as to train Christians for public debate. It speaks volumes that The God Delusion is now being used as a textbook at several Christian Schools and Universities.
In both the 2005 and 2007 Baylor Religion Surveys, researchers found than 11 percent of the national sample reported they had "no religion." Although nearly a third of the "no religion" group are atheists who reject "anything beyond the physical world," the Baylor Religion Survey found that two-thirds of the "no religion" group expressed some belief in God and many of those are not "irreligious" but are merely "unchurched" (Ch. 17, "The Irreligious: Simply Unchurched-Not Atheists"). Delving into the actual religiousness of those who report having no religion, the Baylor Survey found that a majority of Americans who claim to be irreligious pray (and 32 percent pray often), around a third of them profess belief in Satan, hell and demons, and around half believe in angels and ghosts.
It has in short proven to be a rare gift to theists, just like the equally badly researched The da Vinci Code.
Another of a myriad of Stark's sometimes surprising findings (which naturally will lead to a lot of checkings and denials), supports one of the most famous things Chesterton never said - When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn't believe in nothing. He believes in anything.
In short, to be a skeptic, it helps to be a Christian.
The Baylor Survey found that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases credulity, as measured by beliefs in such things as dreams, Bigfoot, UFOs, haunted houses, communicating with the dead and astrology (Ch. 15, "Credulity: Who Believes in Bigfoot"). Still, it remains widely believed that religious people are especially credulous, particularly those who identify themselves as Evangelicals, born again, Bible believers and fundamentalists. However, the ISR researchers found that conservative religious Americans are far less likely to believe in the occult and paranormal than are other Americans, with self-identified theological liberals and the irreligious far more likely than other Americans to believe. The researchers say this shows that it is not religion in general that suppresses such beliefs, but conservative religion.Something we never doubted.
"There's an old saying that a man who no longer believes in God is ready to believe in just about anything, and it turns out our data suggests it's true. That is to say, religious people don't believe this stuff, but there's no education effect," Stark said.
Among other interesting findings on paranormal or occult beliefs: People who have read The Purpose-Driven Life or any book in the Left Behind series are less likely to believe in the occult and paranormal, while those who have read any book on dianetics or The Da Vinci Code are more likely to believe.