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Transgender views follow religious divide, Pew says

NASHVILLE (BP) — Christians are just as likely to say that gender is determined solely at birth as are atheists and religious “nones” to say the opposite, according to newly released Pew Research Center findings.

Nearly two-thirds of Christians, 63 percent, told Pew that gender is determined at birth; while 62 percent of atheists/agnostics and “nones,” categorized as religiously unaffiliated, said individual gender can change from biological sex at birth.

Religious identification also affected a perception of whether the U.S. had gone too far in accepting transgender people, Pew said. White evangelicals, at 61 percent, were most likely to say the nation has gone too far, compared to 44 percent of all Protestants. Among other Christians, 33 percent of white mainline Protestants, 29 percent of black Protestants and 27 percent of Catholics agreed with the notion.

In the category combining atheists and agnostics, 65 percent said the nation has not gone far enough in accepting transgender people. About half of “nones,” 52 percent, agreed that the nation needs to do more to accept the transgender population.

The U.S. religious divide, which Pew announced Nov. 27, mirrors a partisan divide on transgender views Pew revealed Nov. 8 in concert with several state and local elections.

Politically, U.S. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to believe gender is determined at birth. Pew found both the religious and political divides in its American Trends survey conducted in August and September. About 80 percent of Republicans said gender is limited to the biological designation at birth, compared to only 34 percent of Democrats. (see Nov. 9 Baptist Press story.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., in his Nov. 29 podcast The Briefing, said the religious divide evidences the lack of resiliency in the secular worldview. Perhaps as recently as a decade ago, he said, most of the secular population agreed with Christians that biological sex and gender are essentially the same thing.

“A moral worldview based in anything other than biblical Christianity doesn’t have much resilience,” Mohler deduced. “There’s very little moral resilience in terms of the secular worldview. It is almost by definition going to change and alter, not only generation by generation but as we’re watching now, almost day by day.”

The question, Mohler said, “is whether or not Christian faithfulness will be demonstrated in the resilience of the Christian worldview.”

Pew described the poll, conducted online Aug. 8-21 and Sept. 14-28 among 4,573 people, as nonpartisan.

The poll included white evangelicals, white mainline, black protestant and Catholic subsets in the Christian category. White evangelicals presented the largest group (83 percent) of people who said whether a person grows up to be a man or woman is determined at birth. Black Protestants followed at 59 percent, and white mainline Protestants at 55 percent. Catholics were generally divided, with 51 percent following Protestant beliefs and 46 percent saying gender could change during one’s lifetime, Pew said. Four percent of Catholics registered as undecided.

Only 37 percent of the religiously unaffiliated said gender is determined solely at birth. Subsets in the category showed a similar belief among 43 percent of “nones” and 29 percent of atheists.

Pew’s full narrative on the findings is available at pewresearch.org in FactTank reports.