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Survey: U.S. Protestant pastors reject evolution, split on Earth's age
January 10th, 2012
04:18 PM ET

Survey: U.S. Protestant pastors reject evolution, split on Earth's age

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

America’s Protestant pastors overwhelmingly reject the theory of evolution and are evenly split on whether the earth is 6,000 years old, according to a survey released Monday by the Southern Baptist Convention.

When asked if “God used evolution to create people," 73% of pastors disagreed - 64% said they strongly disagreed - compared to 12% who said they agree.

Asked whether the earth is approximately 6,000 years old, 46% agreed, compared to 43% who disagreed.

A movement called Young Earth creationism promotes the 6,000-year-old figure, arguing that it is rooted in the Bible. Scientists say the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

The Southern Baptist Convention survey, which queried 1,000 American Protestant pastors, also found that 74% believe the biblical Adam and Eve were literal people.

“Recently discussions have pointed to doubts about a literal Adam and Eve, the age of the earth and other origin issues," said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention, in a report on LifeWay’s site. “But Protestant pastors are overwhelmingly Creationists and believe in a literal Adam and Eve.”

The phone survey was conducted in May 2011, sampling ministers from randomly selected Protestant churches. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent, LifeWay said.

A 2010 Gallup poll found that 40% of Americans believe God created humans in their present form, versus 54% who said humans developed over millions of years.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Science

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soundoff (6,504 Responses)
  1. James

    Here is the way it goes...If you are going to be a Christian then you have to live by faith on a lot of things...But if the Bible says one thing then you can't make up your mind because you don't believe it and think something else...This is a true Christian...A true Muslim is the same in his faith....So seeing how the Bible says that to check the spirits, because even Satan came come as an angel of light and fool even the elect...So the percentage that think other than what the Bible says, must have a different god than the one the Bible speaks of...My God created the universe, and even gave name to all the stars....People start reading your Bibles and quit believing what every person that is entertaining is saying....A real Christian should be a servant and help everyone, regardless of what they are like...We don't have to have them as our buddies to hang out with, but if they need help it is our job to do it...Thats why we are condemed so much...People believe what they hear and not what they read...And has God ever spoken to me,,,? NO...not in an audible voice...Its all by faith....and how old is the earth...Well its as old as it is and not one second older....

    January 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Happy Jack

      So if there are 5 billion believers in a God, there are really 5 billion different religions. Like no 2 people look exactly alike, no 2 people believe in exactly the same things.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • hrcane

      So...if god named all of the stars, it would still be thinking up names... There are an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000 to 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe. The universe is approximately 432,329,886,000,000,000 seconds old. So it would have to be naming stars at quite a clip to have named all of them (many more than one per second!). Now, with his ability to make over 350,000 SPECIES OF BEETLES alone, how would it have time to name all of the stars?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  2. oneSTARman

    This Article Really FREAKED Me Out Because NO PASTOR I Know Thinks The World is 6,000 Years Old – Then I saw that the 'Survey' was conducted by Southern Baptists who it would seem SKEWED the Results. It is DISTURBING that Dishonesty is becoming Accepted as NORMAL for the Delusional Religious RIGHT. Climate Change Deniers have NO PROBLEM Creating a Total Fiction in Order to Support the Pre-Supposition that Whatever Big Business Does is GOD'S WILL.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      I've never understood the capitalization of every word thing. Could you explain it to me? I'm serious, why?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • The dude

      @ Dr.K
      It's because they know that some letters should be capitalized, but they don't know which ones, so they capitalize all of them so they at least get a few right.
      But, seriously, I don't know, that's just my best guess.

      January 16, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  3. NT

    Where is all these crazy research coming from?For no one all beliving paster and people know God creature man in his own image read the first book of the bible.If you want to research how to feed the America people and stop homeless in our nation

    January 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  4. HermanPain

    Report: 7 out of 10 pastors reject pedophilia.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  5. Dr.K.

    It is a disservice when journalists state that creationists promote a young earth, but "scientists say" the earth is 4.5 billion years old. The earth is 4.5 byo because that is the evidence, not because scientists "say" it is. The wording suggests that these are two opinions on equal footing, and nothing could be further from the truth.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • werdc

      When God made Adam, if a scientist studied him five seconds later, he would determine Adam to be 20 years old, not five seconds old. Same thing with the earth. When God made it, it was shiny and new. It would obviously have all the "evidence" of an old planet.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • werdc

      True. God certainly is above the folly of man. No way they are on equal footing. Man thought the earth was flat for 10,000 years.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • madcow11

      You said it right, DrK.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • The dude

      @ werdc Then, why couldn't God have just put everything in motion to happen the way it did, through evolution and all of these other things, which then would test our faith, saying, "Did God do it or did it just happen, as science shows", but, why not both? Why couldn't God just put everything in motion form the big bang?

      January 16, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • kristen

      That's exactly right!

      January 16, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  6. Antonio666

    This is really, really frightening. It particularly scares me to think that these people are allowed to vote. Every candidate for higher office should be questioned as to his or her knowledge of basic scientific principles and it should be a matter of public record. It is no wonder that we have people believing that global climate change is "controversial."

    January 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • madcow11

      Well said, Antonio.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Missouri Boy

      From the founding of this Republic until the present time, our people (and "yours",too) have been allowed to vote. That is WHY we still have a FREE Republic.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Antonio666

      I never said we shouldn't allow these people to vote. Only that it is frightening that they can. Before too much longer we might be living in a theocracy – the very thing many of our founding fathers left England to escape from. The Bachmanns and Santorums of the world would impose a "christian" version of Sharia law on all of us and insist that we think what they think and believe what they believe. It is important that we educate people and stop giving "equal time" to crackpot ideas like creationism.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Missouri Boy

      Rest your weary mind, fellow citizen. This Missouri boy here dont believe in "theocracy" : America wasn't founded as a theocracy, but as a Repulic. I believe in YOUR rights, but I also believe in MINE: When you and other non-Christians sy that you find it "frightening" that we Believers are allowed to vote, WHAT ARE we SUPPOSED to think? It sounds as if you distrust us and may even be cooking something up against our rights. Thanks for tipping us off.....we will be watching out for ourselves. In the words of Andrew Jackson:"The Union: it must and shall be preserved."

      January 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  7. Will S

    Catholicism allows for evolution.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      Religion should not need to "allow" ANYTHING.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Happy Jack

      They allow for anything once science prooves it to them. All that is left are metaphores that used to be religious certainties.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      If you want to reduce the ignorance on these blogs you will have to stop posting.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Dean

      Catholicism finally allowed for a non Earth Centric Galaxy as well. So what? Fear and vanity still require that humans are in the image of the Lord.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  8. lloyd roberts

    Only in America. The founding fathers came here to escape these pastors and their closed mindedness and here they are again. The age of enlightenment in America is over and our society will dive downward as at dives into religion

    January 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Missouri Boy

      The "Founding" fathers didnt come here, dear friend. They were BORN here. Mostly in Virginia, it seems. And New England. At any rate, both regions were (very) religeous. If you or any other non-believer actually thinks that the bulk of the Colonial army stood behind the Founding Fathers while knowing that these men were not Christians, you are deceiving yourselves. If word had gotten out that George Washington or others in the colonial ranks were simply Deist(as opposed to Christian) the numbers in their ranks would have melted away quicker than the proverbial snowball in Hades. Many of the colonial units (Minute Men and so forth) were led into battle BY THEIR MINISTERS! Without Christianity, you wold not have an America that is free.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  9. Robert

    So 7 of 10 people in the US are ignorant what else is new?

    January 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  10. Dan63

    This kind of thinking and belief is what will destroy America. We will continue to fall behind the rest of the world and America will become irrelevant. Science is what made America great and what will keep it great!

    January 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • werdc

      Yep, good old science made America great. (eye roll)

      January 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Missouri Boy

      You have that entirely backwards, friend. That kind of thinking is what made us great! Alexis de Toqueville wrote that there is not a country on the earth, where the Christian religeon is more prominent than in America. More church buildings and more church people. Let me add here that our Country was definitely in better shape financially, socially, and militarily in the fifties when my Father was a young boy, before the onset of Leftist Liberalism and before the Country at large backslid from it's Christian roots. We Christians have had this Country for some 236 years. Sure, it had slavery durng that time. And a Civil War. But, for the most part, we have had a strong Nation and a great one. We Believers have steered the old Ship of State for all these years, now let's see just how long and how well you Atheists can manage.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • WASP

      @ wardc: you have central heating/air? you get vaccinations for the flu? you drive an automobile? how about do you cook on a stove? science built america, not religion. nickola tesla, henry ford, steve jobs. they all used an understanding of science to improve our way of life and build the american economy by selling our innovative technology to other countries along with american citizens. people maybe religious and create the lovely things you now take for granted, but it was still the people that studied science that built america, not the church.

      January 12, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  11. Otto

    Wow. Just ... wow. OK, they can now go put their head back in the sand. And don't disturb them!

    And some wonder why we are falling behind in education, science education in particular. Do they also not believe in higher mathematics, and advanced physics, including quantum mechanics? Because if they believe as they say they do, then they cannot believe in these things, since they are directly contradictory.
    Wow.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Antonio666

      Trust me – they do not believe in quantum mechanics. Do you find any reference to it in the Bible? If not, they they just don't think it exists. The bumper sticker I see all too often reads "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." Try explaining science to somebody like that.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  12. Dean

    "Asked whether the earth is approximately 6,000 years old, 46% agreed, compared to 43% who disagreed."

    Given that they refute science, they must be Republicans.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  13. MotoJB

    I am a struggling believer in God (whatever that is and whatever God is). I can say this; If a Pastor openly disagree's with the immense historical data proving evolution, how the heck is anyone supposed to take his/her teaching/doctrine seriously? To know that it was really the hands of a MAN that wrote the book should lead one to hypothesize that perhaps the story is a bit sku'd in some respects. Why is it that God and evolution can't co-exist? Simply because how it was written in the book. What if evolution was in fact part of God's intelligent design?? What if MAN simply screwed it up for everyone by writing some glorified, fairy-tale version of God's intelligent design/creation? I for one think that we need to expand the possibilities to imagine that perhaps there are other explanations. The truth most often lies in between the two polar extremes.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      Evolution is the two ends AND the middle. :-)

      January 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Wizard

      Evolution and God CAN coexist, and with that thought you're on the right track. Blind devotion to God is kind and good hearted, but devotion based on reason is most blessed. Likewise your young children will love you because you are their parent, but when your grown children love you it is because of the knowledge of who you are. God puts great value in love from intelligence.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  14. Bob

    What do you expect from pedophiles?

    January 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  15. neil

    god gave mankind the the ability to make decisions and choices, god does not make mistakes, therefore god is pro-choice.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  16. EatYouAlive

    LOL. Such ignorance on display.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Quit posting then.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      Nah, I'm good thanks.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      Denial the first danger sign

      January 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  17. Jerry

    "The world holds two classes of men – Intelligent men without religion and religious men without intelligence"

    -Abu Ala Al-Ma'arri

    "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason"

    -Benjamin Franklin

    January 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Clarify

      J. R. R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were both Christians. Last I checked, they've written some of the most popular books of all time. If you're saying they were unintelligent, what does that make you?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Jerry

      Even an insane man can create great beauty – or have you never hear of Van Gogh?

      Creation is not the sole province of the rational; in fact, I would say it is the irrational who are the MOST creative among us, else how could they so willingly believe the obviously false realities they create for themselves?

      "God is perfect" – yet ALL of his creation is riddled with imperfection. It is patently obvious that perfection, being perfect, can ONLY create more perfection. That we exist at all puts lie to that statement.

      "God gave mankind free will" – if God is all knowing he knows the future with the same surety as the past, (hence the many "prophecies" of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim mythos,) but if God knows the future TO A CERTAINTY then all that anyone can do is play out the part God has already seen them play to create that future he certainly and infallibly knows to be. Thus is "free will" proved a fallacy or God's knowledge of the future proved a lie. You can have one or the other but not both.

      "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
      – Steven Weinberg, Freethought Today, April, 2000

      January 11, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Jerry

      Oh, by the way; I love Tolkien, quite enjoyed Lewis' Narnia books, and I've worked on productions of Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar but I understand them all to be – just like the Torah/Bible/Koran – works of FICTION.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  18. Boffo97

    Amazing how much pure hatred there is out there... just because someone disagrees with science's current guess (and you're fooling yourself if you think evolution is more than that), THEY must be ignorant. Only YOU can be right. Same crime you're accusing others of.

    More and more scientists are finding way too many holes in evolution to keep blindly going along with the mob. (Just as one big one, where are all the "in between" species? We shouldn't have so many distinct species with nothing in between if they all had common ancestry)

    Also, for those SO convinced as to the age of the universe. Imagine, for sake of argument, that the universe was created in 6 literal days. Don't you think that kind of phenomenon happening SO quickly would throw off things like carbon dating?

    But, I guess religious bigots need something to feel better about themselves.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      Evolution is not a guess. Your religion on the other hand, is totally made up.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Boffo97

      Sorry, but yes it is. It may be one you strongly feel is right, but there's definite reason why it's not a law of evolution.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      You have no idea what Scientific Theory is, do you?

      And you will resist any attempt to educate you.

      So, remain ignorant and righteous. Good luck with that.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Bob

      We have mountains (literally) of evidence for the age of the earth and for evolution. You creation apologists recycle the same arguments (you find some rock that carbon dates incorrectly) and use that as "proof" that all science is bunk. It's like watching a six year old repeat a dirty story and he gets the words all wrong because he doesn't understand a word he is saying. It's cute initially to watch someone be so ignorant, but after awhile its cuteness wears off and you have to take the child aside and tell him it's not polite to talk about things beyond his understanding.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Robert

      Right noob, more and more who exactly. You are just another tool in the religious whoop up

      January 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • neil

      'Intelligent design, helping stupid people feel smart since 1987'. did you happen to have any FACTS to back up your assertions? didnt think so.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Dean

      As we explore the true nature and laws of the universe and explore the tools God used to create it, we understand, thru science, that if the Universe were created in 6 days it would run counter to the evidence God left us. Have faith, but don't let it blind you.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Don'tBelieveTheLiesOfReligion

      Wow! Just WOW!!! Your ignorance is simply breathtaking. Are you a preacher?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Clarify

      Agree, boffo!

      January 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Otto

      So I suppose the light from stars many billions of miles away was ... created with the light already on its way? Or perhaps the laws of physics are just 'set aside' whenever it conflicts with YOUR version of creation. BTW, many other religions and cultures have different estimates for the age of the universe, why is yours correct?
      We are all atheists... when you truly understand why you dismiss all the other gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. I merely believe in one less god than you do.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • BigEarl

      Have you ever heard of the THEORY of gravity? Just because the word 'theory' is used does not lessen the evidence that supports it.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      Bob, you nailed it. Well stated.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Smarter

      You do know the difference between a science law and a science theory right? Oh, no, of course not. You would prefer to keep the sheep ignorant.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Do you believe in plate tectonics?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Snow

      Lets look in detail about your "common ansestry should not have so much distinct species" argument.. Ever heard of Binary tree? draw a circle.. to that, attach two branches, each ending in a new circle.. to each circle, at the leaf, add two more new circles.. so each circle is attached to one parent on the top and two children below.. with me till now?

      Now, do this proces to 10 levels.. now check how far two leaf nodes on either side of (say) 4th level parent are.. and count the number of leaf nodes at mere 10th level. Now think how many would be in, say 100th or 1000th level. That is the reason for so many species coming out of common ancestor..

      Minor genetic mutations between children and their parents, even grandparents may not be that big a deal. But when they accu.mulate over a million years span (with some unfavorable attributes causing extinction on some branches) the distinction between species sharing common ancestry is vast.

      Thanks for attending Evolution 101 class.. :)

      January 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • bib

      We'd be happy to let pastors blithely continue to ignore science, but see, they won't stop trying to foist their respective beliefs on the rest of us – you know, trying to make sure evolution isn't taught in schools. I'd like my kids to learn science in school you see... not someones ideas about how their invisible friend in the sky created humans. And by the way, these are PROTESTANT preachers. I, in particular, don't want their ideas cropping up in our schools thank you very much.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Boffo97

      There are 5 laws in the Theory of Evolution.
      1) Evolution as such.
      This is the understanding that the world is not constant, nor recently created, nor cycling, but is changing; and that the types of enti.ties that live on it also change.
      2) Common descent
      This is the understanding that every group of living enti.ties that we know of on this planet descended from a common ancestor.
      3) Multiplication of species
      This is the understanding that species either split into or bud off other species, often through the geographical isolation of a founder species.
      4) Gradualism
      This is the understanding that changes take place through the gradual change of population rather than the sudden production of new individuals.
      5) Natural selection
      This is the understanding that individuals in every generation are different from one another, or, at least some of them are. In every generation some individuals survive and reproduce better than others. Their genes multiply.

      A theory is what one or more hypotheses become once they have been verified and accepted to be true. A theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers.

      January 12, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  19. Dr.K.

    I read an interesting article by a pastor who argued against teaching that the earth was 6,000 yrs old, because it is so obviously untrue that you would eventually be forcing people to choose between faith and reality and faith would lose. I agree, and suggest this applies to evolution as well. They are shooting themselves in the foot.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  20. ML

    I believe that the earth is 6,000 years old and that humans were created at around that time. I also believe that mankind was led astray by a talking snake. Why? Because my Bible says so and, unlike scientific theories it is 100 percent accurate!

    January 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • just sayin

      Talking snakes still exist only now they like to be called atheists

      January 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      The voices of reason scare you.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Smarter

      God says that people like you should be put to death and your villages burned. Yeah, you shouldn't put words in His mouth either.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Clarify

      Ravi Zacharias: excellent academic man with a clear "voice of reason" and intelligent apologetic. Suggest you listen to him sometime. I have listened to atheists and secular scientists (best to know all sides). Have you researched apologetic's?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • fintastic

      The babble = 100 percent FICTION

      January 12, 2012 at 11:17 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.