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Surprise: 51% of People Who Don’t Celebrate Christmas Believe Jesus Was Born to a Virgin

Teresa Neumann : Dec 20, 2013 : Pew Research – Religion & Public Life Project / BCN

About nine-in-ten adults (91%) who see Christmas as a religious holiday say they believe Jesus was born of a virgin. However, even among those who celebrate Christmas as a cultural holiday and those who do not celebrate Christmas, roughly half say they believe in the virgin birth. -From the Pew Research Center poll, “Celebrating Christmas and the Holidays, Then and Now.”

Pew pollTo Christians, Christmas is a day in which they celebrate the gift of a redeemer to the world. Part of that Biblical narrative includes the fact that Christ the Redeemer was born of a virgin.

Well, Pew Research Center decided to conduct a poll called “Celebrating Christmas and the Holidays, Then and Now,” asking Americans if they believe in the virgin birth and if Christmas is celebrated in their home. If it is celebrated, the survey asked if it was treated as a religious or a secular holiday.

The survey results were extensive and detailed, but here are some excerpts from the Pew website:

Nine-in-ten Americans say they celebrate Christmas, and three-quarters say they believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. But only about half see Christmas mostly as a religious holiday, while one-third view it as more of a cultural holiday. Virtually all Christians (96%) celebrate Christmas, and two-thirds see it as a religious holiday. In addition, fully eight-in-ten non-Christians in America also celebrate Christmas, but most view it as a cultural holiday rather than a religious occasion.

There are significant generational differences in the way Americans plan to celebrate Christmas this year, with younger adults less likely than older adults to incorporate religious elements into their holiday celebrations. Adults under age 30 are far less likely than older Americans to say they see Christmas as more of a religious than a cultural holiday. They are also less likely to attend Christmas religious services and to believe in the virgin birth. This is consistent with other research showing that younger Americans are helping to drive the growth of the religiously unaffiliated population within the U.S. But the new survey also shows that even among Christians, young people are more likely than older adults to view Christmas as more of a cultural than a religious holiday.

These are among the key findings of a new Pew Research Center survey conducted Dec. 3-8, 2013, among a representative sample of 2,001 adults nationwide. The survey – which explores Americans’ Christmas plans, childhood traditions, and likes and dislikes about the holiday season – also finds that most Americans say gathering with family and friends is what they most look forward to about Christmas and the holidays. When asked what they like the least about the holidays, many express frustration with the commercialization of the season; one-third say they dislike the materialism of the holidays, one-fifth dislike the expenses associated with the season, and one-tenth dislike holiday shopping and the crowded malls and stores.

Mary and Jesus babyHalf of Americans (51%) say they see Christmas as a religious holiday, while 32% say that, for them, personally, it is more of a cultural holiday. A few (9%) give other responses, such as saying it is both a religious and a cultural holiday or saying it is neither a religious nor a cultural holiday, while 7% say they do not celebrate Christmas, and 1% say they sometimes celebrate Christmas or decline to answer the question.

Eight-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (82%) see Christmas as a religious holiday. Smaller majorities of white Catholics (66%), black Protestants (60%) and white mainline Protestants (56%) see Christmas as more of a religious than a cultural holiday, as do about half of Hispanic Catholics (51%). Among the religiously unaffiliated, two-thirds celebrate Christmas as more of a cultural than a religious holiday.

More women (57%) than men (46%) see Christmas as a religious rather than a cultural event. And there is a striking generational component to views on this question. Fully two-thirds of Americans age 65 and older see Christmas as a religious holiday, as do most Americans ages 50-64 (55%) and half of those in their 30s and 40s (50%). By contrast, 39% of adults under 30 say Christmas is more of a religious holiday, while 44% say for them, personally, Christmas is more of a cultural occasion.

Slightly more than half of the public (54%) says they plan to attend religious services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day this year. By comparison, about one-third of the public (36%) says that they attend religious services in a typical week.

Three-quarters (73%) of people who say Christmas is more of a religious holiday plan to attend religious services either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Far fewer people who say they see Christmas as more of a cultural holiday or who do not celebrate Christmas at all say they will be in the pews this Christmas (30% and 24%, respectively).

Women are somewhat more likely than men to say they will attend Christmas services this year (58% vs. 50%), and parents who are currently raising minor children in their household say they will attend Christmas services at higher rates than non-parents (59% vs. 51%). A majority of adults age 30 and older say they plan to attend religious services this Christmas, compared with 46% of adults under 30.

Among religious groups, three-quarters of Catholics (76%) and seven-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (71%) plan to attend Christmas religious services this year, as do two-thirds of black Protestants (65%). About half of white mainline Protestants say they will attend Christmas services. Among U.S. adults who are unaffiliated with a religion, just 16% say they intend to go to religious services this Christmas.

Roughly three-quarters of adults (73%) say they believe Jesus was born of a virgin. About one-in-five (19%) say they do not believe this, and 7% say they don’t know or decline to answer the question.

The vast majority of white evangelical Protestants (97%), black Protestants (94%) and white Catholics (88%) believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, as do 81% of Hispanic Catholics. Fewer white mainline Protestants (70%) believe this. Among the religiously unaffiliated, 32% believe that Jesus was born to a virgin.

About nine-in-ten adults (91%) who see Christmas as a religious holiday say they believe Jesus was born of a virgin. However, even among those who celebrate Christmas as a cultural holiday and those who do not celebrate Christmas, roughly half say they believe in the virgin birth.

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Source: BCN

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