When Staturday’s stats are perplexing, as yesterday’s apparently were, I’ll follow with Explanashunday.
Two claims from yesterday’s set raised eyebrows. Here are the stats and the explanations:
1. That 98% of Mormons believe non-Mormons can go to heaven
It’s true — but with a twist. Mormon theology holds that everyone will be resurrected and most of them will be received into one of three “kingdoms of glory.” Not everyone gets into the best heaven, but almost everyone gets something. (The only exceptions are the Sons of Perdition, those who explicitly reject the Holy Spirit. They go to the “outer darkness.”)
2. That a majority of “Nones” believe in heaven
If you use the word “Nones” as a synonym for “nonbelievers,” you would have been flummoxed to see 87 percent of them talking about heaven as if such a place exists.
Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up: “None” is not a synonym for “nonbeliever.” Not even close.
The “Nones” is a category almost devoid of useful meaning, in my humble. It’s a pollster’s dustbin containing everyone who is not affiliated with a specific denominational religious label. Many of these folks have nothing else in common belief-wise. Atheists and agnostics are in there, as are the “spiritual but not religious,” many believers in a universal spirit, and a huge number of people who believe in God and Jesus, read the Bible and pray…but don’t see themselves as part of any particular denomination.
That’s how you get a survey result in which a lot of Nones sound more like nuns.
The confusion is largely our fault. Atheists and humanists are eager to show a big, straddling presence in the culture, so we grab that 19.6 percent and run with it. I’m sure I’ve been sloppy with that term myself at times. Time to stop that.