An article in the Nov. 14, 2003 issue of The Wall Street Journal notes, “Americans don’t seem much interested in converting the ‘heathen,’ as it was once put. Indeed, they decreasingly believe there is such a thing as “the heathen” at all or that Christian belief is necessary for salvation. Even the most feared of Christians – the dread ‘born agains’ who have cost the high priests at People for the American Way so much sleep – often embrace the modern orthodoxies of tolerance and inclusion over the traditional teachings of their faith.

“Barna Research, a California-based marketing research company, recently conducted a nationwide poll about belief in life after death, heaven and hell, and who might end up where. (Mark Twain was famous for claiming he had friends in both places.) While Holy Writ warns that few will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Americans are far more optimistic. Three-quarters of us believe in heaven, nearly that many believe in hell (71%) – and only one half of 1% say that they’re heading for the hot place after the closing bell.

“All told, 81% of Americans firmly believe in some type of life after death, with 9% considering it a possibility and only 10% believing that death brings utter finality, the survey found. And while 43% of respondents said that Christianity is their passport to glory, 15% say that they will get to heaven because they “have tried to obey the 10 Commandments.” Another 15% expect to gain admittance because “they are basically a good person.” Among the others, 6% believe that God is letting everyone in, no matter what.”

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