July 28, 2011


U.S. Jews: Who are we? (Leonard Fein, 7/26/11, Jewish Journal)

Now is when we get to the really interesting stuff, the ways we part not demographically but dispositionally and ideologically from others.

So, for example, homosexuality: Half of all Americans believe that "homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society." Among some religious communities, that figure drops substantially -- Evangelical churches (26 percent), Mormons (24 percent), Muslims (27 percent) -- while others are more welcoming -- Catholics (58 percent), mainline Protestant (56 percent). Jews, however, score 79 percent approval, right up there with Buddhists at 82 percent. Here it may be important to note that the data are almost four years old, and we do not know how volatile they are. (Attitudes toward homosexuality are a likely instance of that.) As with a few of the matters detailed below, events in "the real world" may have caused significant shifts, one way or the other, in people's dispositions.

The range of response is much narrower on the question of whether "the government should do more to help needy Americans, even if it means going deeper into debt." There, the national average is 62 percent -- it's 67 percent for Jews -- and the range is from a low of 57 percent (Evangelical churches) to a high of 79 percent (historically black churches). Jews are more inclined than most others to believe that "stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost" and to hold, by a substantial margin, that "it's best for our country to be active in world affairs." And, whereas 43 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, 84 percent of Jews endorse abortion, 40 percent in all cases, 44 percent in most.

Forty-eight percent of Americans completely or mostly agree that "evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth." For members of Evangelical churches, that number drops to 23 percent, and for Mormons all the way to 21 percent. Among Jews, however, it rises to 77 percent.

I leave to the side most questions about specific religious belief -- life after death, heaven and hell, the authorship of the Bible, frequency and utility of prayer and more -- and urge the interested reader to go to religions.pewforum.org for the full report. But I can't resist one of this set: Are "angels and demons active in this world?" Sixty-eight percent of all Americans agree or mostly agree that they are, including 88 percent of Mormons, 79 percent of Muslims and 87 percent of members of historically black churches and of Evangelicals. For Jews, the number is 21 percent. (Fourteen percent of Americans completely disagree that angels and demons are active in our world; among Jews, 52 percent completely disagree.)

Seventy percent of Jews seldom or never read Scripture outside of religious services; for Americans in general, that figure is 45 percent. (I report the Jewish number with a straight face but with a heavy heart.)

Sadly, they're no longer Jewish.

Posted by at July 28, 2011 7:04 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus