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Research About Nativities, the Virgin Birth and the Traditional Christmas Story That Might Surprise Some Atheist Activists

Research About Nativities, the Virgin Birth and the Traditional Christmas Story That Might Surprise Some Atheist Activists

The Christmas season almost always brings along with it good tidings, great joy — and a series of contentious battles over the separation of church and state.

Atheist activists make it known each year that they oppose nativities and other religious displays on public land, but where do Americans really stand on the contentious constitutonal issue?

A new Pew Research Center poll found that 44 percent of Americans believe that Christian symbols like nativity scenes should be permitted on government property — even if religious symbols representing other faiths aren't present to balance them out.

Photo credit: Shutterstock Photo credit: Shutterstock

And an additional 28 percent of the public believes that Christian symbols should be permitted, but only if other symbols are there for balance. That said, 20 percent of Americans do not believe these symbols belong on public property, according to the Pew Research Center.

Taking a deeper look at the numbers, this means that 72 percent of the public supports faith-based displays on public property in some form.

But on the flip side, 48 percent of the Americans do, to some degree, have concerns about nativities and other related elements on government property; this latter proportion includes those who believe there should be a balance of symbols on display.

Pew Research Center Pew Research Center

The survey also measured where Americans stand on Christ's birth, finding that 65 percent of adults believe that the virgin birth, the magi traveling to Jesus, the angel's announcement to the shepherds and the manger all truly happened; an additional 22 percent believe in at least some of these events.

Individual indicators, as shown in the above table, are even stronger, with 73 percent saying that they believe in the virgin birth and 75 percent saying that a star guided the gift-giving wise men to Jesus. The virgin birth proportion is identical to what Pew found during the 2013 holiday season.

The data was collected using telephone surveys from December 3-7, with a sample of 1,507 U.S. adults, aged 18 and older. 

Read the complete results here.

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