Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Do you believe in the Rapture of the Church, that is, that before the world comes to an end, the religiously faithful will be saved and taken up to heaven?  (CBS, December 1999)
55% yes, 34% no, 11% Don't know

(Please tell me whether you think each of the following will or will not happen when the world comes to an end.)... People who God has decided to save will be lifted up to Heaven in and event called the Rapture. (Time/CNN/Harris Poll, December 2002)
13% will, 52% won't, 34% world won't end (volunteered)

Do you believe in the Rapture, that before the world comes to an end the religiously faithful will be saved and taken up to Heaven? (PSRA/Newsweek, May 2004)
55% Yes, 32% No, 13% Don't Know

Which, if any, of the following do you believe in?) Do you the Rapture of the Church, that is, that before the world comes to an end, the religiously faithful will be saved and taken up to Heaven? (Pew, July 2006)
63% Yes, 26% No, 11% Don't Know (only asked of self-identified Christians)
The surveys agree in finding that a little more than half of Americans believe in the rapture (usually 80-90% of Americans say they are Christians, so 63% of Christians would amount to about half of all Americans).  The one exception was the Time survey of 2002, where only 13% said they did.  I can think of three explanations for the difference:

1.  The Roper Center made a mistake in transcribing the results--the 52% should go with "Yes"
2.  "Lifted up" suggests a physical event, while "taken up" seems more general.  People may find the idea that believers will be saved more plausible than the idea that they will literally be lifted up to heaven.
3.  The 2002 survey refers to "people who God has decided to save," while the others refer to the "religiously faithful."  People find the idea that people can earn their way to being saved by being faithful more plausible (or appealing) than the idea that God will just decide.  

Explanation #3 appeals to me:  it would say something interesting about the contemporary American approach to religion.  However, I've learned that when given the choice between a simple-minded explanation like #1 and a subtle and sociologically interesting one like #3, the simple-minded one is usually correct.  Stay tuned for further investigation.

1 comment:

  1. From 30AD until present, billions of Christians have been swayed by various doomsday prophecies. Since day one, Jesus predicted then end of the world within his generation! Even the apocalyptic beliefs of the very first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that Jesus’ follower all expected the Second Coming within their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their perception of the coming end where he would “arrive in the clouds” in their “generation would not pass until these things happened(Mt 24:34; Mk 13:30; Lk 21:32). I also put a link to a list of failed human prophecies up until the 1920′s at the bottom of this post. These prophesies usually revolve around various biblical books of Old Testament Prophecy, the Book of Revelation and a mishmash of current events(often related to Israel). Check out some famous apocalypse winners like “Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey or “88 Reasons Why the World Will End in 1988″. And be sure not to forget the plethora of failed Jehovah Witness prophecies. You’d think they’d give up on the second or third try. Harold Camping’s reasoning for why million of believers would dematerialize and go to a happy place to spend eternity with an all knowing creator can be seen on this little sheet of paper to the right. Unfortunately critical thinking does not seem to be a strong point for him or his followers. Did anyone sit back and ask the question, “why do I believe what I believe” or “Do I have sufficient evidence”?