However, there are also other factors that need to be considered. 50.3% of Americans believe in angels while 49.7 % believe in aliens.
In another review, 55% claim angelic protection, 16% claim they've received a miraculous healing, 8% say they pray in tongues, and one-fifth claim God speaks with them.
"The survey, which has a margin of error of four percentage points, also revealed that theological liberals are more apt to believe in the paranormal and the occult - haunted houses, UFOs, communicating with the dead and astrology - than do conservatives. Women (35 percent), blacks (41 percent), those younger than 30 (40 percent), Democrats (40 percent) and singles who are cohabitating (49 percent) were more likely to believe, the survey said."
So despite these beliefs, how does science fare in all of this?
"Most Americans do not accept the theory of evolution. Instead, 51 percent of Americans say God created humans in their present form, and another three in 10 say that while humans evolved, God guided the process. Just 15 percent say humans evolved, and that God was not involved."
Unfortunately one of the consequences of this "disconnect" is that people take the position that science is simply another ideology. In part, science has become so complex, that its explanations sound little different than the miracles espoused by simpler beliefs. In Arthur Clarke's words, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
While many see this as a call for better science education, I suspect that the problem is much deeper and going to be significantly more difficult to address. However, this is where we encounter the beginnings of the underlying problem.
Whatever convinces me that this is a problem will be equally convincing to someone else, from their perspective, that it isn't a problem. Someone views religion as the problem, while someone else blames atheism. So, at this point, society is divided into major ideologies, all of which profess to be the path to normalcy and security.
Whether it be religious or political, these ideologies tend to reinforce preexisting beliefs (usually taught) about how the world "should" function. Invariably, the problem comes down to the point that the world is supposed to function a certain way and it is the opposing ideologies that have sent it "off-course". From this it becomes easy to blame the opposing ideologies as being the cause of the problems.
This seems to be the general tone that is beginning to resonate with people, especially when they voluntarily propagandize themselves with a 24-hour "news" cycle that rarely conveys news. In most cases, these media outlets tend to reinforce existing beliefs and play upon the fears or concerns of their viewers.
So why does a belief in an ideology become so appealing?
Belief systems exist to provide a comprehensive picture of how we see ourselves in the world around us, but additionally, a belief system can also be an effective way of simply "turning off the brain". While that may sound negative, it serves a purpose so that every circumstance someone encounters doesn't require deep analysis. Instead a response can be made by working from little information as encompassed by the belief system.
Over time, as humans have had to spend less time surviving by their wits, belief systems can be used to manage many kinds of information, but the effect is always the same. The fundamental trait of any belief is that there is no criticism nor critical thought required for its operation. The point is precisely to avoid such criticial thinking, so a belief system provides a comfortable place from which one can make decisions without having to think about them. Whatever our belief, it is through those parameters that we will evaluate and assess the world around us.
As a result, a belief system isn't subject to logical arguments nor analysis, unless an individual finds themselves dissatisfied with the beliefs they currently hold. They become entrenched in the mental processes of the believer, as certain as the sun rising in the morning.
Science and specifically the scientific method are a means by which this system of beliefs can be circumvented. By setting criteria for evaluation, testing, and confirmation, the scientist attempts to remove themselves from the intrinsic bias of their own beliefs by engaging in peer review. It isn't that scientists are necessarily more objective, but their approach allows themselves to be challenged in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. In effect, the scientist's belief system is based on the idea that the world is understandable and that it can be examined and tested to determine how it works.
The problem between these different belief systems is in how they operate against objective information. While I will admit to a bias to the scientific approach, the primary benefit to this is that it allows a large number of people to evaluate any particular piece of information to determine its soundness. Even when science gets some things wrong, there is a strong pressure for additional work to correct the problem and potentially revise the conclusions. This is almost never observed in other belief systems.
In many other belief systems, the process is actually reversed. A phenomenon is presented or an explanation is offered and if someone doesn't see the evidence or agree with the conclusions, then the presumption is that there is something wrong with the individual looking at the information. They either lack faith, or a sufficient belief, or a willingness to acknowledge mysteries. Each of these is a method whereby the individual is expected to change their thinking to accept a conclusion rather than considering that the conclusion may be incorrect.
In the abstract this doesn't present any problems, but as scientific knowledge begins to encroach on popularly held beliefs the science itself becomes suspect. A critic may find nothing directly wrong with the science, but they allege that the motivation is atheism, so implying an underlying agenda to the evidence. To the idealogue, this is viewed as a conspiracy of ideas that are seeking to undermine their fundamental beliefs. It is nothing less than an attack on who they are as people.
However, it is also true that science does not operate in every realm of human endeavors. Often ideological agendas are couched in scientific terms and are used to lend an air of credibility that is unwarranted. Increasingly, science must also confront questions regarding the boundaries of knowledge and whether some information simply carries more responsibility than can reasonably be handled. Scientists can not simply presume that they are "above the fray", but must recognize that their interests and their work also have direct consequences on the society they are part of.
It is too easy to blame others, their ideologies, and even their influences on the problems we encounter in our own lives. However, when confronted with issues, it is more important to fix problems than to fix blame. We need to avoid ratcheting up the rhetoric about people's motives and realize that most people simply want to be left alone to live their lives without intrusion. While we may disagree about how to achieve objectives, each viewpoint doesn't need to be treated as a "life or death" challenge nor does every opponent need to be treated as the embodiment of evil.
We need to start discussing ideas instead of simply hurling ideologies at each other.