November 3, 2015

A closer look at Seventh-day Adventists in America

Seventh-Day Adventists: A Small and Diverse Faith

Ben Carson’s religion has been in the spotlight in recent weeks after Donald Trump, one of Carson’s leading rivals in the Republican presidential primary, mentioned it at a Florida rally. “I’m Presbyterian,” Trump said, according to media reports. “Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”

The Seventh-day Adventist Church, known for its observance of the Sabbath on Saturdays and some other unique beliefs and practices, traces its origins to the United States in the first half of the 19th century, when preacher William Miller built a religious movement around his prediction that Jesus Christ would return to Earth in 1844. Since then, the church has transitioned from being seen as a cult by some Americans to a more mainstream evangelical Christian denomination.

Here are a few facts about Seventh-day Adventists in the United States today, based on the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study:

Demographics

Seventh-day Adventists make up one-half of 1% of the U.S. adult population (0.5%), little changed from 2007 (0.4%). That stability stands in contrast to U.S. Christians overall, whose share of the population has dropped by nearly 8 percentage points (from 78.4% to 70.6%) over that same period.

Seventh-day Adventists are among the most racially and ethnically diverse American religious groups: 37% are white, while 32% are black, 15% are Hispanic, 8% are Asian and another 8% are another race or mixed race.

About seven-in-ten Seventh-day Adventists live in either the South (40%) or West (31%) regions of the U.S. Only about one-in-ten members of the denomination live in the Midwest, where Carson was raised (in Michigan).

Religious beliefs and practices

Seventh-day Adventists are extremely devout by traditional measures of religious observance. All Adventists in our survey say they believe in God, including nine-in-ten who are absolutely certain about this belief (89%). By comparison, 63% of all Americans say they are absolutely certain that God exists. Roughly eight-in-ten (83%) Adventists say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 53% of U.S. adults overall.

Fully two-thirds (67%) of Seventh-day Adventists say they attend religious services at least weekly, higher than most other Protestant denominations that are large enough to be analyzed in the survey. In addition, 86% of Seventh-day Adventists say they pray at least daily (compared with 55% of all U.S. adults).

A big majority of Adventists (89%) believe the Bible is the word of God, including about half (48%) who say it should be taken literally. And two-thirds (66%) say they look to religious teachings and beliefs as their primary source of guidance on questions of right and wrong, double the share of Americans overall who say this.

Most Adventists (85%) believe in heaven, but far fewer (52%) believe in hell. The relatively low level of belief in hell by Seventh-day Adventists stands out among evangelical Protestants, 82% of whom say they believe in hell.

Social and political views

After Carson’s announcement that he would run for president, the Seventh-day Adventist Church released a statement emphasizing its political neutrality. While Carson (along with 35% of Seventh-day Adventists) is a Republican, many in the denomination identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (45%). About one-in-five (19%) Adventists identify as political independents or do not lean toward either party.

Adventists also are spread out across the ideological spectrum: 37% say they are conservatives, 31% identify as political moderates and 22% say they are liberals. Interestingly, about half of Adventists (53%) favor a bigger government with more services, while four-in-ten prefer a smaller government (42%).

Carson has compared abortion to slavery and called for it to be banned in all circumstances, but Adventists are actually somewhat divided over abortion. About four-in-ten (42%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 54% say it should be entirely or mostly illegal. This latter group includes one-in-five Seventh-day Adventists (19%) who take Carson’s view that abortion should be illegal in all cases.

Seventh-day Adventists are more united in their opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. About six-in-ten (59%) say homosexuality should be discouraged by society, and a similar share (63%) oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally.

Fully two-thirds of seventh-day Adventists (67%) reject evolution, saying that humans have always existed in their present form. This mirrors Carson’s view: The candidate has been a vocal critic of evolution, saying that it is impossible to believe in both God and evolution.

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Demographics, Political Attitudes and Values, Religious Beliefs and Practices

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is an editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.

55 Comments

  1. Anonymous2 months ago

    There are some adventists who are protestants in the sense of studying the Bible for themselves and thinking for themselves. There are some adventists who are cultists in the sense of thinking that the Bible can be “properly understood” only as interpreted by adventist leaders, past or present.

    The thing that unites these two VERY different groups within the Seventh-day Adventist organization is the belief that the millennial kingdom will be an heavenly kingdom–not an earthly one. Adventists believe the millennium will begin at the second advent of Jesus–hence the name, “Adventist”.

  2. Margaret Key7 months ago

    Very insightful article. I’m new to FB & this by far the best posting I’ve read so far. Thank you June

  3. teresaq8 months ago

    Which one?

    Truth is, when any read the 28 “beliefs” aka creed, we use the word to describe what we believe, then define that.

    So if you are referring to the traditional trinity doctrine, if you compare the two you may find some clear differences, tho we have given up some of those in order to fit in with the world. Persecution ain’t fun, don’t you know. 🙂

    Then, to top it off we are so egotistical as to swear up and down that we have the “true” trinity doctrine. Laodicea and Christ standing outside of the church knocking to get in and all. 🙁

  4. Aileen8 months ago

    The sample of 165 members for this Pew Research is at a minimum laughable. I’ve known several Seventh-day Adventists for many years and although I don’t share every single belief they do, I believe in the Sabbath keeping, and the Bible as the sole authority. Yes, it’s true that their beliefs are very distinct from other “more popular Christians,” and perhaps that’s the reason they are one of the most respectful people toward other religions I’ve ever met. They are seem to be aware of that and feel a little picked on. I think their specific beliefs that differ from other religions are not harmful in any way, so what’s all the fuss about? On the Sabbath, I can tell you that after much reading on the Bible I became convinced that it seems it is a BIG DEAL for God. Otherwise He wouldn’t have talked about it SO MUCH… think about it!

  5. Patrick Boyle8 months ago

    It is very interesting as an Irish Seventh-day Adventist to read some of the strange comments several correspondents of the correspondents make regarding our faith.
    What we believe is based upon what the Bible teaches. Any person who wants to see the way we support our beliefs can find the written information at the General Conference website.
    It is a sad aspect of poor scholarship and some religious people that rather than accept what people of faith actually believe they see matters through the lens of their prejudices. They make the assumptions that what they personally believe is absolutely true and every thing else and every one else are are in error.
    It is Christian to be honest and even when you differ with others to be tolerant towards them.

  6. jesus is the only to heaven8 months ago

    The Seventh Day Adventist church is a false religion of “good works”. They claim to teach that salvation is by faith alone, but double talk by making people do the “good works of faith” within their satanic dogma. The bible clearly states in Ephesians 2:8-9 that salvation is by faith alone without good works! It is Jesus ONLY or Hell. No amount of good works can save you out of the pits of hell because none of is perfect. I is only Jesus who was perfect, and therefore able to cleanse us from ALL of or sins.
    Besides the sabbath in the old testament was only a sign of what was to come, JESUS! Colossians 2:14-17 and Hebrews 4:1-12 clearly teach that Jesus is our rest from trying to earn our way to heaven in any way.
    What people won’t tell you about the Adventists history is that the religion was started by a baptist preacher who falsely proclaimed that the world would end in 1844. His devout followers sold everything, anticipating this false prophecy to come true. Well, 1844 came and passed by without Jesus coming. Rather than admitting their mistake, Ellen G. White came to the scene by saying that the age of grace had ended in heaven in 1844 and that she got this revelation from Jesus Christ himself.
    Ellen G. White is clearly a false prophet as the bible itself proclaims in Hebrews 1:1-2 that in these last days (the new testament) God would exclusively speak to us through his SON, the living word (the bible) (John 1:1). In Galatians 1:9, II Corinthians 11:14-15 among other places, genuine Christians are warned about false prophets who would come in peace, seeming to bring good tidings, but are servants of Satan (consciously or not) preaching a false gospel of self righteousness.
    How to Get to Heaven FROM THE BIBLE
    #1. We are all bad sinners and no one deserves to go to heaven.
    Romans 3:12King James Version (KJV)
    12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

    James 2:10King James Version (KJV)
    10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

    Isaiah 64:6King James Version (KJV)
    6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
    #2. Salvation is a free gift received by faith alone.
    Ephesians 2:8-9King James Version (KJV)
    8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

    Titus 3:5King James Version (KJV)
    5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

    John 6:28-29King James Version (KJV)
    28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
    29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
    #3. All you have to do to go to heaven is believe in the bloody death on the cross, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only payment for your sins.
    John 14:6King James Version (KJV)
    6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    John 3:16King James Version (KJV)
    16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    I Corinthians 15:1-4King James Version (KJV)
    1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
    2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
    3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
    4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

    That is all that you have to do to go to heaven (eternal life is a free gift of God). Would you like to accept this free gift of eternal life today by believing in Jesus Christ’s bloody death on the cross, burial, and resurrection from the dead as the only payment for your sins?

    For more info please visit: jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Reli…

    1. Pete8 months ago

      Attitude Toward the Sabbath?
      The Sabbath is God’s weekly gift to His people. We should consider it much like His command to tithe. God gives us six-sevenths of the week to do with as we please, within the confines of His Law. All He requires in return is that we keep the seventh day holy.
      He commands us to use the sixth day of each week to prepare for the Sabbath. This means proper planning—looking ahead and making sure that everything is in place well before sunset Friday, so that we are ready to receive the Sabbath, in the same way that we receive blessings for obeying God’s tithing command: “I will…open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be enough room to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).
      Unlike tithing, God gives us our six-sevenths of the week “up front.” Only at the end of the week does He test us “…whether [we] will walk in [His] law, or no” (Ex. 16:4).
      Those with children should plan Sabbath activities for them that will help them properly appreciate the day. Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
      Mark 2: 27
      And he said unto them; The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath:
      Remember: “…whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23)

    2. Pete8 months ago

      Sign Between God and His People
      After two-and-a-half centuries in Egypt, God’s people, the ancient Israelites, had lost all knowledge of His Law. God had to teach it to them again. After freeing them from slavery, the first great law that He gave them was the command to keep the Sabbath.
      This was before the Old Covenant was established. The Ten Commandments were not given as part of the Old Covenant. They had been in force since creation. (Read our book The Ten Commandments – “Nailed to the Cross” or Required for Salvation?)
      For every cause there is an effect. Obeying the Ten Commandments identifies the cause that will produce every good and desirable effect. But the world has been deceived, thinking that this great Law is burdensome and harsh, and lacks love and mercy. Yet, the world ignores the plain Word of God: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3). The Ten Commandments are NOT done away! Now you can learn why YOU should keep this living, active, spiritual Law of God.

    3. stephen moore8 months ago

      Sir, You are way out of line saying the SDA church is satanic dogma. As in any and all Christian denominations you will find those attempting to earn salvation by their own works. The church however teaches no such things. I would be careful with your sayings, which by the way I believe to be very incorrect. Jesus himself was accused of doing miracles by beelzebub (the devil).
      God’s Sabbath still matters. Thats why He said REMEMBER!

    4. Cyril8 months ago

      Brother, I respect you and your opinion, but I have to say that you are mistaken about Seventh-day Adventists thinking that their works merit anything toward salvation. There may be some in any church that have mistaken views, not excepting Seventh-day Adventist nor your denomination. The true position of Seventh-day Adventists regarding works is as stated by Jesus’s brother, James: James 2:18 But a man may say, You have faith and I have works; let me see your faith without your works, and I will make my faith clear to you by my works. . . . 20 Do you not see, O foolish man, that faith without works is of no use? We are judged by our works as it says in Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. Please withdraw your judging and condemnation of Seventh-day Adventists and be one of those mentioned in Revelation 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. Those who do not choose to follow Jesus’s example in obedience to His/our Father, will not be admitted nor safe in Heaven. (Luke 9:23) God needs not forgiven criminals, but transformed criminals as it says in 2 Cor. 3:18, (transformed into the same image/character). If only forgiven criminals, they would be still criminals.

    5. Kathleen Brosius7 months ago

      I think maybe you misunderstand what the Seventh-day Adventist Church teaches. Yes, we talk about works, but if one does works in order to gain eternal life, he is wrong. If one loves Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, becomes Christ-like, he will want to do good works which shows one’s love for his fellow man. Simple.

      The Seventh-day Adventist Church was born out of the Millerite movement. The folks who followed William Miller were not Seventh-day Adventists. After Miller’s prophecy did not take place, a lot of his followers left his movement and began to study the Bible looking for Miller’s error. The church had begun to form with James and Ellen White’s guidance, when a Baptist pointed out the Sabbath as the 7th day.

      Please check out the teaching of the church from an Adventist theologian, otherwise you will be led down the wrong path. God bless you.

  7. Kimberlie Currier8 months ago

    It is sad that less than half of all Adventists believe murdering a child a problem, and over half say we should ignore the separation of church and state and freedom of and from religion, and that we should persecute the LGBT community like the Catholics used to do Protestants. Makes me sick to my stomach and makes me have serious doubts about my church.

    1. Wayne8 months ago

      Take heart, the article also said that most Adventists live in the south and the West coast. My guess, having been in the Adventist community in all parts of the country, is that they did most of their interviews on the west coast where the there is a higher percentage of cultural Adventists, who are not committed to our doctrine. While the population there is dense, if you were to look at the church based on majority opinion outside that one dense area you would find a much differeny story.

      BTW the study did not say anything about persecuting LGBT. There’s a huge difference between discourging something and persecuting it. I’ve never met one Adventist who believes in persecuting people who believe differently, but that doesn’t mean we have to endorse beliefs that we don’t find in the Bible.

  8. Linda Wolfe8 months ago

    I think Trump should cast the beam out of his own eye before he pulls the mote out of Ben Carson’s eye.

  9. ED8 months ago

    RELIGION IS A SOCIAL INSTITUTION THAT PROVIDES AN ANSWER TO THE UNKNOWN.

  10. InfantryVeteran8 months ago

    What percent of Adventists believe that the pyramids of Egypt were grain silos?

    1. Kaycee8 months ago

      What does this matter, in the big scheme of things? The world is in terrible shape, and somebody is worried about this? You can read the story of Joseph in the Bible and make up your own mind. I don’t know the definitive answer to this question, but don’t lose any sleep over it, either.

      1. Manny8 months ago

        I do lose sleep when someone who has real chance of becoming president believes kooky things. What if President Carson sees some sign and decides he has to nuke Iran so that the apocalypse comes and Jesus finally returns. The Adventists seem to be very upset that the end times did not come in 1845 and I think they might be willing to speed up the process if one of them suddenly has the power to destroy the world.

        1. Really???8 months ago

          Since when does a president has full custody over the country’s duties? Have you ever seen any president declare war or a bill based on their faith alone? I think not. Very ignorant!

        2. Jesse James7 months ago

          It was actually 1844 that was ‘The Great Disappointment.’ And the Seventh-day Adventist church wasn’t even organized then. It was out of the Millerite movement (Baptist) that a small group found the truth about the Sabbath and started keeping the 4th commandment.

  11. janet8 months ago

    Is the seventh day Adventist the same as Mormon church?

    1. Trenton Schwarzer8 months ago

      No

    2. Stephen Moore8 months ago

      Absolutely NOT

    3. Wayne8 months ago

      No connection with Mormons whatsoever. Actually Baptists and Presbyterians share more in common with Mormons than Adventists do (for example Sunday keeping, mixing church and state, building their theology on a mixture of the Bible and human traditions). However we believe in being respectful of all faiths, even while we disagree with them, and would defend their right to hold to their beliefs that we disagree with.

  12. Sandy*8 months ago

    I would be more interested to know if the Adventist believe in Trinity, which is a definite part of the Christian faith.

    1. Jules Bamana8 months ago

      Yes Seventh day adventists belief in trinity

    2. Trenton Schwarzer8 months ago

      We SDA’s do believe in the Trinity, in God the Father who in concert with Jesus Christ, the Son and creator, allowed Jesus to come and be crucified for our sins, and that the Holy Spirit works in our lives for the work of transformation.

    3. dorothy8 months ago

      yes, according to the Bible

    4. Kimberlie Currier8 months ago

      Yes, they do.

    5. Wayne8 months ago

      Yes Adventists believe in the trinity.

  13. Mack Varnes8 months ago

    I think that All, Seventh-Day Adventist should believe what the Bible says. We are suppose to believe the words of Jesus 100% and the Bible 100% and God 100%. The laws of the land is secondary to Jesus and what the Commandments teaches. Yes, God says we are to obey the laws of the land, as long as those laws do not conflict with Gods laws. This should cover most of the paragraphs discussed above. God made man, the Bible says so in the Book Of Genesis. You wanna believe God, or someone else. God said that marriage is to be between a Man and a Woman, who can dispute God? God is good all the time. God is love. I was led to believe that Adventist were and are, the top believers in God, I don’t see this in the above paragraphs that are shown in percentages. But on the other hand, God gives each of us a choice, and even Satan, made his choice. I suggest we all choose wisely. Time is short and the End Times are here and the End, is very near. When Jesus gets here……It’s too late to choose. There is no forgiveness after Jesus arrives, It’s the End. The Bible clearly tell us, Be Ready. Are You, ready?

    1. Pauline8 months ago

      Nicely put. The Bible is the Word of God, and that Word is Jesus Christ (John 1:1). And the question about hell…there is a hell, as in the lake of fire which will destroy all sin & sinners. But it will not burn forever. God would not torture people through the countless eons and it breaks my heart to know people actually believe that papal garbage.

      1. Mike Mitchell8 months ago

        You sound like a Catholic hater

        1. Cyril8 months ago

          I’m sure that Pauline does not hate Catholics, but only feels very bad that some doctrines taught to Catholics, make our loving God look very bad and have produced atheists as a result. God does not need people who are scared into heaven, but Friends who love Him and admire His character. Most Christians would agree that Christ took the punishment that we deserved to have. If that is true and forever burning hell is to be our punishment if we are lost, why isn’t Christ still burning–in fact, He never burned at all. Check out Bibleinfo.com

      2. kyle8 months ago

        before the holy bible commonly seen in america was copied and aprroved the pope review making small changes. some books of the bible are not in the one we have.

    2. Jules Bamana8 months ago

      Yea! Very good comment! God bless you

    3. Lisa8 months ago

      Yes, I believe and Jesus help my unbelief. Amen

  14. Daniel Buxton8 months ago

    I believe the problem with the hell statistic is the way it is asked. If you ask an Adventist if there is hell right now, the answer will universally be ‘no.’ If you ask them if the fire of hell occurs after the millennium when fire comes down from God out of Heaven to destroy the resurrected wicked surrounding the New Jerusalem (see Revelation 20), the answer will be ‘yes.’ If you ask them if they think that the fire of hell torments the wicked for all eternity, the answer will be ‘no.’

    So, if you simply ask an Adventist “Do you believe in hell.” Depending on what they think you’re asking (when, where, how long), you will get different answers.

    1. Danson8 months ago

      Good comment

    2. Larry8 months ago

      Boy, isn’t theology fun! On to, “How many angels can dance on the end of a pin”.

      1. Kit7 months ago

        Having been Seventh-Day Adventist the first half of my life(my choice not my family’s) I am an liberal religiously now, they are kind and generous. Most value life but look at things more scientifically (if well educated). Their knowledgeable of the Bible while mostly literal.is impressive. Most also are very healthy eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. The Bible states we are the temple of God.. For them it also means no caffeine, little sugar, smoking, or alcohol. If people in US followed their regime our medical bills would be less than half.

  15. Randolph8 months ago

    How come I was never polled? How can you come up with those figures?

  16. Rachel C8 months ago

    I assume that the low numbers for belief in hell may reflect that fact that Adventists believe in the complete destruction of the wicked in a limited-term hellfire at the end of time rather than eternal torment in a currently-existing hell.

    1. Michael8 months ago

      Definitely true, though I suspect the Adventists who said they did believe in hell meant that limited-term hell rather than an eternal hell.

      1. Cecily8 months ago

        I agree.

  17. Ann8 months ago

    Have you done similar articles on other candidates from other parties and their faith…matching them with their comments and doctrine? Just wondering.

    1. cindy8 months ago

      I honestly don’t see as to why his faith is in question. dr carson is the best man for the job in my book. He is honest he is a Godly man . Is the public questions all the candidates religion? If you new Dr Carson really new the man . He is a man that had done many wonderful things like surgeries that has saved people’s lives when there was no monies to pay him but he did anyway.I would trust my sick child to his care and my country in his care because he will do the right thing because of his believes. Because he is a Godly man i know he would be the bast candidate for the Job. I will vote for him because of his believe.

      1. Dave8 months ago

        I am sorry to inform you that Ben is not the honest man you believe him to be. Do your home work Cindy, don’t blindly follow but “dwell according to wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

        He is indeed a likeable man and may be a great Christian. But he lied…and who is “the father of lies?” Not a good role model when anyone of us chooses to lie.

        dailykos.com/story/2015/11/03/14…

        1. Me8 months ago

          Thank you for pointing that out, Dave. I personally do not like him at all.

          And who wants/needs a president who sounds like a Pot Head? Did they test him for drugs?

          He wants to do away with Medicare. Cindy, you don’t seem very educated…look at your post. I may not have perfect English, but it seems like you did not get far in school. My heart goes out to you, and you are a good person (from your post). The things you mention about Carson ARE wonderful…but there are serious issues in his becoming President.

          1. kaycee8 months ago

            He did NOT say he wanted to do away with Medicare. He said that he would like to see an additional option that included health savings accounts. Please see if you can find a way to listen to what he said again – you will find this. His opponent(s) have said he wants to do away with it, but they are twisting his words.

        2. Martin8 months ago

          Political or religious differences should not move anybody to make this kind of statement without proper backup. This sounds judgmental.

        3. Kaycee8 months ago

          So you are okay with the many lies of the other candidates? Just wondering… or do you overlook that?

      2. kyle8 months ago

        maybe, but the guy has no political experience

        1. Darrell8 months ago

          How much experience did Obama have? Not near enough!

    2. Deborah Katz8 months ago

      Ummm…..Mitt Romney?