Right now, the gay-marriage issue is making headlines. But for millions of traditional believers in Christianity, Judaism, Islam and many other faiths, this issue is linked to a question rooted in religious doctrine, not modern politics. In a spring LifeWay survey, researchers asked: "Do you believe homosexual behavior is a sin?"
The results showed a culture torn in half, with 48 percent of American adults saying that homosexual acts are sinful and 45 percent disagreeing. Considering the margin for error, this is a virtual tie.
The numbers were radically different in different pews, with only 39 percent of Roman Catholics believing that homosexual acts are sinful, as opposed to 61 percent of Protestants and 79 percent of those who identified as evangelical, "born again" or fundamentalist Christians.
A similar pattern emerged from a hot-button question in the latest results reported from the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Researchers in this massive effort asked participants which of the following statements "comes closer to your own views -- even if neither is exactly right. 1 -- Homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society, OR 2 -- Homosexuality is a way of life that should be discouraged by society."
The question was not stated in strictly political or religious terms. However, with that powerful, more official word "discouraged" in the question, 50 percent of the adults surveyed said that "homosexuality" in general, as opposed to homosexual behavior, should be accepted by society.
Once again, there were sharp differences in various religious groups, with 79 percent of American Jews, 58 percent of Catholics and 56 percent of mainline Protestants calling for acceptance of homosexuality. Meanwhile, only 39 percent of the members of historically black churches, 27 percent of Muslims and 26 percent of the evangelical Protestants affirmed the public acceptance of homosexuality.