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Religion Gaining Influence

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The influence of religion on American life has reached a record high, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

The December study revealed that 78 percent of the nation’s population said the influence of religion is growing in the United States, compared to 37 percent last April.

This is the highest number in four decades. In 1957, 69 percent said religion grew in its influence, while in 1968 only 19 percent thought so.

Only 12 percent of Americans thought the role of religion in their life decreased, compared with 55 percent in 2000. Ten percent of Americans said religion’s role is unchanged, down 2 percent from 2000.

The study also revealed that the public has a better opinion of Muslim-Americans than it did before the Sept. 11 attacks. Favorable views of U.S. Muslims rose from 45 percent in March 2001 to 59 percent at the end of the year, according to the survey, which incorporated data from the Gallup organization.

Americans heeded President Bush’s call for tolerance toward Muslims, the study found. Nearly two-thirds of conservative Republicans (64 percent) felt favorably toward U.S. Muslims, up from 35 percent last March.

When asked to agree or disagree with some religious leaders who said that the attacks demonstrated less protection from God, 63 percent of white evangelical Protestants completely disagreed, compared with 73 percent of the general public.

The survey involved 1,500 adults nationwide.