Catholics: Heaven's open

May 28, 2013, 9:18 PM GMT+0

Most Americans think that even people who don't agree with their religious beliefs can still go to heaven, with Catholics being by far the most likely to agree.

In May, Pope Francis appeared to say that entry to heaven depended on doing good, not on faith, and that Christ had redeemed everyone, not just Catholics. Spokesmen for the Catholic Church were quick to clarify, however, that the Pope did not say atheists can go to heaven but rather that the Catholic Church needs to be open to everyone.

YouGov's latest research shows that 63% of Americans largely agree with the initial interpretation of the Pope's comments, believing that even people who do not follow their own religious beliefs can go to heaven. 24% said that only people with similar beliefs can go to heaven.

Interestingly, among Christians, Catholics are much more likely than Protestants to say that other people can go to heaven. Only 9% of Catholics say that non-Catholics cannot go to heaven, compared to 33% of Protestants who think that non-Protestants cannot go to heaven. Among Christians who describe themselves as born again, 37% say that heaven is shut to people who disagree with them.

Unsurprisingly, people who regard their religion as 'very important' in their lives are much more likely to say that people who do not have similar beliefs are not able to got to heaven, though even among these people 55% say that heaven is not just limited to co-religionists.

When asked how many people on earth will go to heaven, the most common answer was that only some of them will. 33% said that 'some' of the earth's population will go to heaven, while 26% said 'most' will.

When asked whether people they personally know will go to heaven, the answers change somewhat. 39% think that most of the people they know will go to heaven, while 24% think that only some of them will. 11% believe that everyone they know will go to heaven.