Despite the notorious decline of religiosity in recent years, a majority of Americans still believe in the essential elements of the Nativity story surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.
A full 66 percent of U.S. adults believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, Pew reports, while 68 percent of Americans say that the three wise men were guided by a star and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. Meanwhile, 67 percent of Americans believe that an angel of the Lord announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds and that the newborn baby Jesus was laid in a manger.
A majority of Americans—57 percent—believe in the full biblical account of Jesus’ birth, with all of the elements related by Saints Luke and Matthew in their gospel narratives, Pew found.
Even among millennials, whom studies have shown to be much less religious than prior generations of Americans, belief in each of the four components of the Nativity account exceeds 50 percent.
According to Pew, 55 percent of millennials believe in the virgin birth, 54 percent believe that an angel heralded Jesus’ birth, 57 percent believe that the three magi came bringing him gifts, and 65 percent believe that the infant Jesus was laid in a manger.
For all demographic groups belief in the biblical narrative of the birth of the Christ child has fallen in recent years, Pew reports, with a significant drop even in the last three years. As an illustration of this phenomenon, in 2014 a full 78 percent of millennials believed that Jesus was laid in a manger as a baby, while today the figure stands at 65 percent—a remarkable 12 percent drop in just three years.
Pew also discovered that an absolute majority of every demographic group except Catholics says that in American society the religious aspects of Christmas are emphasized less today than in the past, although less than half of U.S. adults (31 percent) find this drop in emphasis to be “bothersome.”
Ninety percent of the U.S. population still celebrates Christmas as a holiday, and a slight majority (51%) say they will attend religious services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
While among white evangelicals and white mainline Protestants, a higher percentage say they will attend religious services this Christmas than in 2013, among Catholics, the opposite phenomenon was observed. The share saying they will attend Christmas Mass has dropped substantially since Pope Francis’ election in 2013, from 76 percent to 68 percent.
A clear divide was also noted along partisan lines, with nearly two-thirds of Republicans saying they will attend church on Christmas (65 percent), while among Democrats, less than half (45 percent) say they plan on attending religious services this year.