More than 500 people in the community shared their sometimes complicated religious beliefs in an unscientific, informal online survey that asked about prayer habits, church attendance and affiliations, and the basic tenets of their faith.
The survey revealed the respondents belong to a diverse set of churches, though some don’t go to church at all.
A total of 534 people completed the survey, with 77 percent of them reporting they live in Howard County. Most people who took the survey — 72 percent — were 36 or older.
Their religious affiliations vary, with 31 percent identifying as other Christian, 34 percent identifying as either evangelical or mainline Protestant, 22 percent as unaffiliated, 6 percent as Catholic and 5 percent as other faiths — including paganism and polytheism.
The majority, at 54 percent, attends church services often, but 27 percent never go. Seventy-one percent said they pray regularly.
The last question on the survey asked respondents to describe their beliefs or non-beliefs and how they came to feel that way.
For some, the answer was simple and clear cut. Others described a more complicated spiritual journey.
Many said they live by the Bible and believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins so they might find salvation. Sometimes that belief was instilled in them as a child, but sometimes it came after personal reflection or a traumatic event, according to survey responses.
One respondent said, “I accepted God into my life when I was 16 years old. I always had a desire to serve The Lord. As I have experienced many trials, I learned that I could not do it without God in my life. God is good, all the time he is good!”
Others have a hard time believing that God would make innocent people face so many trials.
One respondent, an agnostic, said “It makes no sense to me that a loving God who is omniscient and omnipotent would CHOOSE not to do anything to protect innocent people, especially children, from the people who prey on them. ‘Free will’ is indeed important, but at what cost? Of course everyone cannot be saved from every misfortune, but I cannot reconcile a loving God who simply prefers to support the free will of those who rape or murder or commit genocide. And yet, I do pray for other people — just in case someone really is out there and listening.”