This thinking by a majority of Americans contradicts a basic tenet of Christianity.
Most Americans don’t believe they will experience a resurrection of their bodies after they die, putting them at odds with a core teaching of Christianity.
The findings of a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll surprised and dismayed some of the nation’s top theologians since it seems to put Americans in conflict with the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed, ancient statements of faith meant to unify Christian belief.
The Nicene Creed, adopted in 325, concludes with: “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.” The Apostles’ Creed professes a belief in “the resurrection of the body.”
Only 36 percent of the 1,007 adults interviewed by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University said “yes” to the question: “Do you believe that, after you die, your physical body will be resurrected someday?”
Fifty-four percent said they do not believe, and 10 percent were undecided.
“This reflects the very low state of doctrinal preaching in our churches,” said Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and editor of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.
“I continually am confronted by Christians, even active members of major churches, who have never heard this taught in their local congregations,” he said. “We have a lowest-common-denominator Christianity being taught in so many denominations that has produced a people who simply do not know some of the most basic Christian truths.”
Robert Wuthnow, director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, said the poll seems to have broken new ground in understanding America’s popular theology.
“In a way, though, it doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “I can think of interpretations of the creeds that would suggest a spiritual resurrection rather than one of the physical body.”
The survey was conducted by telephone from Feb. 19 to March 3. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
Who believes in resurrection
A breakdown of 36 percent of people nationwide who said they believe in a personal, physical resurrection:
Attended church recently 50%
Not attended church lately 25%
Roman Catholic 38%
No religious preference 16%
Is “born again” 59%
Is not “born again” 24%
Source: National survey of 1,007 residents of the United States conducted by Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University from Feb. 17 to March 3.