By Aaron Earls
Martin Luther and other Protestant Reformers voiced, often aggressively, their differences with the Catholic Church. Five hundred years after the Reformation, most Americans think those distinctions are just water under the Tiber River bridge.
According to Pew Research, 61 percent of Americans say Catholics and Protestants today are religiously more similar than different—including 65 percent of Catholics and 55 percent of white evangelicals.
Atheists and agnostics (73 percent) are the most likely to see the two branches of Christianity as mostly similar. Black Protestants (53 percent) and other minority Protestants (48 percent) are least likely.
Among those who see mostly similarities between the two groups, 55 percent say the most important similarity is some type of belief, including:
- 20 percent who say both worship the same God.
- 18 percent who say both believe in Jesus.
- 10 percent who point to the resurrection.
Only 9 percent say the most important link between Catholics and Protestants is their shared practices.
Those who see the two as mostly different are much more divided over what primarily separates them. A third (34 percent) say it is a belief, 11 percent mention practices, and 16 percent give something else.
The top factors mentioned as the most important differing beliefs are the way Catholics and Protestants view Mary, saints and statues (9 percent), the pope (7 percent), the role of priests as intermediaries (5 percent), and differing beliefs on salvation (5 percent).
Another 5 percent say the most important difference is the various rituals and practices, including communion and baptism.
Among Catholics, 54 percent say Protestantism is similar to their own faith. Only 50 percent of Protestants say the same about Catholicism.
Black Protestants (41 percent) are the least likely to say so. Slightly less than half of white evangelicals (48 percent) believe that to be the case.
Almost 3 in 5 white mainline Protestants (58 percent) see more similarities than differences between their religion and Catholicism.
The two groups are, however, more likely to see each other as similar than they are to see any other religion, including Mormonism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism, as similar to their own faith.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.