I was struck by the results of a recent survey conducted by Grey Matter Research about the impact of religious faith on society. ( What impact does the Christian faith have on American society? ) 1000 American adults were asked if the Christian faith had a positive, negative or no real impact on 16 different aspects of society, such as crime, poverty or the role of women in society.
The results of the survey may surprise you. Being a Christian scored very well in public opinion in terms of raising children with good morals and helping the less fortunate; fairly well in terms of impacting the role of women in society and keeping the US a strong nation.
“But out of the 16 different areas tested in this study, those are the only four for which at least half of all Americans believe the Christian faith has a positive impact on American society.”
The study is careful to point out that Christianity is not seen as a negative force in most areas…just not much of a force at all in areas like the amount of violence in society, ethics in business, the extent of poverty or care for the environment. “Irrelevant” is not a term used by the survey, but that seems to be the conclusion.
I found that conclusion startling, to say the least. For faith to have no impact on how we behave in our work lives or on the extent of poverty we will accept is a sad commentary.
There were two areas where Christianity was seen more often as having negative impact: how the US is viewed by other countries and, perhaps not surprising to most Unitarian Univeralists, the role of sexuality in society. Our faith invests a great deal of energy in promoting human sexuality as a “good” in our lives. But, on the role of sexuality, 37% of the respondents felt that the impact of Christianity was negative and an additional 37% felt that it had no real impact at all.
The survey did not ask about the impact of Judaism, Islam, atheism…or Unitarian Universalism. I wonder how we would have faired in such a poll. As a religious community that is small in total numbers, it is unlikely that enough randomly selected people would know enough about us to have much of an opinion.
But I wonder how we would rate our own impact. For a faith that stresses “deeds not creeds,” the impact for good that we do should be an important measure. I wonder how you would rate the impact of this faith and your participation in this community. Does your faith inform the way you live and does it change the way you relate to the world? These are, I believe, questions well worth asking.
Does your faith matter?