Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Minority of Churchgoers Say Religious Beliefs Shape View of War. (at War)

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Minority of Churchgoers Say Religious Beliefs Shape View of War. (at War)

Article excerpt

Although most Americans who attend church regularly said they have heard about the war in Iraq from the pulpit, only a small minority said their religious beliefs have been the biggest influence on their own thinking about the war, according to a national survey.

The survey released March 19 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life also showed that only one-fifth of Americans said their clergy had taken a position on the war. Most white Catholic and African-American churchgoers usually heard an antiwar message, while white evangelical Protestants tended to get a pro-war viewpoint.

The poll of 1,032 adult Americans was conducted March 13-16, before President Bush's March 17 speech on Iraq and before the commencement of bombing two days later. The margin, of error for the survey was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

"On balance very few people say their religious beliefs are shaping their views on Iraq, unlike the relatively large percentage who report this about social and moral issues like gay marriage, abortion or the death penalty," said a Pew report on the survey findings.

"Compared with other religious groups, more black Protestants and white evangelicals said religious leaders were influencing their thinking; 58 percent of black Protestants and 46 percent of evangelicals reported at least some influence, compared with 29 percent among Catholics and 18 percent among mainline Protestants," it said.

Nearly one-third of Americans--32 percent--said they thought religious leaders had said too little about war in Iraq, while 34 percent said they had said the right amount. Only 15 percent said religious leaders had said too much about war, while 19 percent said they didn't know.

Forty-two percent of those who oppose the war, however, thought religious leaders had said too little, while 39 percent of those who favor military action said the comments by religious leaders had been about right.

Among those who attend religious services at least twice a month, 57 percent reported that members of the clergy had spoken about the prospect of war from the pulpit, although 34 percent said the clergy had taken no position on the war. …

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