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Dec 22, 2015
Christianity and Islam

Christianity and Islam: Evangelicals and Americans Are Not on the Same Page About the "Same God"

A lot of debate has swirled around the similarity (or dissimilarity) of Christianity and Islam lately. What do people think? |
Christianity and Islam: Evangelicals and Americans Are Not on the Same Page About the "Same God"

Just a few months ago, in October, LifeWay Research published a good amount of data on how Americans, pastors, self-identified evangelicals, and religious service attendees see Christianity and Islam. Today, I wanted to share just a bit of data with you regarding how similar or dissimilar these groups of people see the two most popular monotheistic faiths in the world.

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the "Same God?"

In the last week or so, the debate about whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the "same god" has been stirred up due to a controversial situation at Wheaton College, about which I wrote last week. (Full disclosure, I've written on several occasions that Muslims and Christians do not pray to the same god and saying so is not helpful.)

Perhaps the reason for the controversy around such "same god" issues is that the country is split, though you would think that country overwhelmingly believes they do worship the same god based on the responses.

But, the nation is actually split down the middle.

Forty-six percent of Americans agree Christians and Muslims pray to the same God, 47% disagree, 8% are not sure.

Of course, we look for statistically different sub-groups of people who believe differently about this issue. Interestingly, they include:

  • Northeasterners (56%) are more likely to Agree than Southerners (40%) and Westerners (44%)
  • Those age 25-34 (56%) are more likely to Agree than those 35-44 (42%), 45-54 (40%), 55-64 (44%), and 65+ (41%)
  • Those age 18-24 (52%) are more likely to Agree than those 45-54 (40%).
  • Nonreligious (56%) are more likely to Agree than Christians (41%).
  • Catholics (52%) are more likely to Agree than Protestants (38%).
  • Self-identified evangelical Protestants are less likely to Agree (35% v 50%).
  • Those attending a religious service at least about once a week (34%) are the least likely to Agree.

Summary: Americans are evenly split among whether Christians and Muslims pray to the same God. Younger people are more likely to agree that they do (55% of those age 18-34 agree). Christians, and particularly self-identified evangelicals, are less likely to agree. But opinions vary among all groups we examined, with more than a third of self-identified evangelicals agreeing and no examined sub-group reaching 60% agreement.

In other words, self-identified evangelicals and religious service attendees strongly disagree that Muslims and Christians play to the same God. Furthermore, this is "self-identified evangelicals," and practicing evangelicals would almost certainly disagree at a higher level.

Are Islam and Christianity "Similar" or "Fundamentally Different?"

When you ask it another way, focusing on the faiths rather than the deity, the numbers shift a bit more.

Forty-four percent of Americans say Islam is fundamentally different from Christianity. Thirty-four percent say it is similar to Christianity.

Here, again, are some significant differences to note among various sub-groups:

Similar to Christianity:

  • Those in the Northeast (41%) are more likely to select than those in the West (29%)
  • Those age 18-24 (53%) are most likely to select
  • Those age 25-34 (36%) and 35-44 (37%) are more likely to select than those age 65+ (26%)
  • Those age 35-44 (37%) are more likely to select than those age 45-54 (27%)
  • Whites (32%) are less likely to select than African Americans (43%)
  • Christians (30%) are less likely to select than Other Religions (43%) and Nonreligious (42%)
  • Catholics (40%) are more likely to select than Protestants (27%)
  • Evangelical Protestants are less likely to select (26% v 38%)
  • Those attending at least about once a week (29%) are less likely to select than those attending only on religious holidays (51%) or rarely or never attending (39%)
  • Those attending once or twice a month (34%) are less likely to select than those attending only on religious holidays (51%)

Fundamentally different from Christianity:

  • Christians (50%) are more likely to select than Other Religions (31%) and Nonreligious (31%)
  • Protestants (53%) are more likely to select than Catholics (41%)
  • Evangelical Protestants are more likely to select (60% v 37%)
  • Those rarely or never attending (35%) are less likely to select than those attending at least about once a week (52%) or once or twice a month (45%)

In other words, again, evangelicals and religious service attendees strongly reject that Islam and Christianity are similar, and instead see them as fundamentally different.

Pastor Views on Islam and Christianity

What about among pastors? What do pastors thing about the similarity or dissimilarity of Christianity and Islam?

Well, the perceived differences grow.

Eighty-three percent of pastors say Islam is fundamentally different from Christianity, 17% say it is similar to Christianity. Here are some significant differences among sub-groups within the pastors sphere:

Similar to Christianity:

  • Those age 65+ (25%) are more likely to select than those 18-44 (14%) and 45-54 (16%)
  • Those with a Master’s degree (20%) or Doctoral degree (20%) are more likely to select than those with a Bachelor’s (8%)
  • Those with a Master’s degree (20%) are more likely to select than those with no college degree (11%)
  • Mainlines (26%) are more likely to select than self-identified evangelicals (12%)
  • Pastors in churches 0-49 (24%) are more likely to select than churches 50-99 (16%) and 100-249 (15%)
  • Those in the Northeast (26%) are more likely to select than those in the South (14%) and West (15%)
  • Those in the Midwest (21%) are more likely to select than those in the South (14%)

Fundamentally Different Than Christianity

  • White pastors (84%) are more likely to select than pastors of Other Ethnicities (74%)
  • Those age 18-44 (87%) are more likely to select than those 65+ (79%)
  • Those with a Bachelor’s degree are the most likely to select (96%)
  • Self-identified evangelicals (89%) are more likely to select than Mainlines (76%)
  • Those in the South (85%) and West (87%) are more likely to select than those in the Northeast (77%)

So, note the overwhelming level of agreement among Evangelical pastors.

Self-identified evangelicals do not see Christianity and Islam as similar and they do see them as fundamentally different.

Self-identified evangelicals and their pastors are not divided in the same way that American are on the issue. They generally do not believe that Muslims and Christians pray to the same god. Instead, they see the deity and the faith as quite different.

Posted:December 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

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