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Today, however, Western European Catholic and Protestant laity are no longer starkly divided by this theological issue: More Catholics and Protestants say both faith and good works are necessary to get into heaven than say faith alone leads to salvation.
And considerable shares of both groups do not take a clear position on this issue, perhaps reflecting a lack of familiarity with the theological intricacies.
And Protestants and Catholics who consider religion to be important in their lives are more likely to take their respective church’s traditional position on salvation compared with those who say religion is less important.
Yet differences remain between the two Christian traditions.
Geographically, Protestants are still concentrated in the north and Catholics in the south of Europe.
The Center previously has conducted religion-focused surveys across sub-Saharan Africa; the Middle East-North Africa region and many other countries with large Muslim populations; Latin America and the Caribbean; Israel; Central and Eastern Europe; and the United States. Roughly five centuries after the rupture between Protestantism and Catholicism, Western Europe still mostly consists of countries whose populations are either predominantly Catholic or predominantly Protestant.
The new surveys are nationally representative, with samples of approximately 1,500 or more respondents in each country, allowing researchers to analyze the opinions of Catholics in 11 countries and of Protestants in eight countries. Catholics form the biggest group in nine of the countries surveyed, largely to the south.