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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 • Evangelical • Science

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soundoff (6,504 Responses)
  1. Doug

    10/10 pastors are nuts

    January 11, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  2. Marty in MA

    52% of american believe in angels. I am happy for them.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • MarkinFL

      But do angels believe in Americans?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  3. Tom

    The person who insists there is no God is just as narrow minded as the one who insists there is a God. My take is that If God wanted us to go about living our daily lives under the constraint of His existence, then he would prove Himself. He created us to have free wills, and that is only possible if His existence is a belief and not a fact. Could you imagine how the world would change if He were to appear? No free will, as any "sane" person would strictly follow what they believed to be His will. No, there had to be an allowance for people to believe and do anything they like, lest we all be robots.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • Doug

      I don't think you have a clear understanding of what "free will" means.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • Michael

      So god is playing a cosmic game of hide and seek? Maybe I'm there...maybe I'm not. You have the free will to decide. But, you'd better not guess wrong or I'm going to fry your a$$ for eternity.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I would never insist that there isn't a god. I will insist that there is zero actual evidence of the existence of a god and I would be beyond shocked if there was one resembling anything as remotely trite as the ones believed in here on earth. Until there is SOME kind of proof, gods will occupy the same space with Santa and the Easter Bunny. Well, OK, a similar space, most gods aren't worthy of their company.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  4. JiminTX

    Silly uneducated zealots who lead their mindless sheep off the academic cliff. There is no Invisible Sky Friend. There are only facts.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  5. David

    Voltaire said it best:
    Faith:Not wanting to know what is true.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  6. dali_70

    No surprise that 7 out of 10 pastors are uneducated idiots.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • angryAmerican

      I think its a little bit foolish of these pastors having the beliefs they do... but your name calling does not elevate you or prove your claim of a higher intelligence then them,,, not in the least.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  7. Bernard Webb

    There is no fool like a religious fool.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • angryAmerican

      Its always been my experience that fools are created equal.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  8. Sam

    Why is it PC to question Christian beliefs but not Muslims or other faiths?

    January 11, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • Tom

      Because it is blind "Christian" followers that facilitate our leaders to kill millions of innocent people in 3rd world countries.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • Colin

      Areed. All supersti.tions should be questioned.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • Michael

      You are correct. We should mock all faiths equally.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • angryAmerican

      Come on Tom, it has nothing to do with "christianity" and our nation having wars with other countries...Its the true Gods of our world that is the cause.... money, greed and power..

      January 11, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Because the Muslim faith has little to no impact on our daily lives, but many Christians in this country want to turn us into a theocracy based on their personal beliefs. Its ALL a lot of BS, but I'd leave Christianity alone if it would leave me alone.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  9. Tom

    The theme song of the atheist should be: I believe in magic. You know it goes, I believe in magic in a young girl's heart.........

    January 11, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  10. TG

    The Bible provides how old the earth at Genesis 1:1, saying: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Thus, the foundation of the earth is as old as the rest of the universe, with "the heavens and earth" being formed at the same time. Those that calls themselves "Christian" and yet says that the earth is just 6000 years old, has thrown aside the Bible's account in Genesis.

    Had these religious leaders done their homework, they could have come to the proper conclusion that each of the "creative" days are several thousand years long, with Adam having been created in 4026 B.C.E. and that we are still within God's "seventh day" or his "rest" day, just as the nation of Israel was.(Ps 95:10, 11)

    The apostle Paul made note that God's "seventh day " was still ongoing during his time (Heb 4:1-11), over 4000 years after the creation of Adam. Most never realize that with each of the six previous "creative " days, there was closure, saying: "And there came to be an evening and there came to be a morning, a -- day"

    However, with the "seventh day", no closure is found. Hence, God's "seventh day" is yet to be completed, for Jehovah God has not yet made the earth into a paradise as he purposed in the Garden of Eden. Only at the end of the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ soon, in which all wickedness will be permanently removed, including Satan, and obedient mankind will have been raised to perfection (Rev 20), then God's "rest day" will then have closure and his eternal purpose will have been fulfilled, with "meek" ones living forever on the earth under Jehovah's rulership.(Rev 21:3-5; Isa 55:10, 11; Ps 37:11, 29)

    January 11, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • angryAmerican

      I was with you until the second paragraph where the fact that you are a member of the cult of Jehovahs Witness became very clear. To date Adams arrival on the earth is a joke and has no biblical backing or proof. faith is a great thing if thats what you choose, but making up dates and times about biblical events just causes all your beliefs to lose credibility. Your organization is based on fake dates created by a fraud Charles taze Russel, and expanded on by the fraud and crook Judge Rutherford. Claiiming Christ returned in 1914, and 5 dates for the end of days...Believe what you will, but dont be stupid in what you believe and listen to a group of men in Brooklyn that play God and spread propaganda and a changed message to "prove" their beliefs.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • Maya

      The earth is NOT as old as the rest of the universe. That is ridiculous. It has been observed that our planet formed WELL after the beginning of the universe.

      January 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  11. cfrench

    Jesse Ventura said it best, "Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers.”

    January 11, 2012 at 7:32 am |
  12. Tom

    If you believe ONLY in science and not God, then please explain such things as ambition, creativity, determination, love....etc. You can argue that the evolving human merely invented these things, however, this still doesn't account for the fact that the universe that was created, or merely popped into existence was situated such that the existence of such "arbitrary" things are possible. Basically, the universe was constructed, either by God or mere accident to facilitate such things. Basically, they have existed since the Big Bang event, or creation and had to be PART of the big bang, or creation. Without any allowance for the influence of God, the big bang WOULD INDEED be an extraordinary explosion.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      Does the god you believe in "answer" prayers requesting specific outcomes? When Rick Perry gathers a prayer meeting to "pray for rain", do you feel this increases the chance of precipitation? What if a nearby prayer meeting is praying for it not to rain? What does your god do then? It's questions like these that expose the sham of simple-minded fundamentalism, not lofty questions like "where does creativity come from?"

      January 11, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      Because humans cannot explain everything by science is not validation of a god. It is validation that 'WE DON'T KNOW'. I think the medical field is a prime example of this. If you were sick ... would you use Bronze age medicine to cure yourself ? no penicillin or asprin for that matter? But yet today you walk into a grocery store and purchase drugs without a second thought. ( Which by default means you acutally DO believe in evolution )
      As for explaining emotions, these are chemical and electronic impulses on the brain. There .. Answered. As for the universe there IS a hypothesis of multi universe. This is not a theorum only a hypothesis ... but it basically says that there are an infinite number of universes ... and if there are an infinite number of universes then the chance of life being in one of these falls to even money.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • BradW

      Perhaps if you had ever studied some biology - and therefore evolution - you wouldn't make such ill informed statements.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • alpg49

      I am a Catholic. We hold that the Bible was written to give insight into the nature of the Deity, and our relationship with him (or is it her?). We do not believe the Bible is literally true. Saint Albert the Great held that faith and reason must be compatible. My faith is infinitely stronger because it is not tied to an obvious falsehood. For Catholics, the important elements in the book of Genesis are that God made the world, and that sinful creatures (mankind) were included by way of the gift of free will. When you slam Christians for helping make the US a scientifically backward country, please do not include Catholics.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      alpg49 sez:
      "My faith is infinitely stronger because it is not tied to an obvious falsehood." OK this is a total contridiction. So basically you are saying that you believe MORE because the bible is FALSE. So the more PROOF that the bible is wrong PROVES the existance of god? HUH??
      This is an example of what really is wrong with religion. I have more respect for the hard core evangelicals than the cafeteria Catholics. At least the evangelicals stand by what they believe. They are totally WRONG ... but they stand by what they think. Cafeteria Catholics are on the fence .. they have no guts to say "Transubstantiantion is a myth", "Prayer does NOT work" or "Jesus did not ascend into heaven", yet these are the standards of the religion

      January 11, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  13. Dave

    Just one more reason why I could never live in the south. These people are about as backwards as...as...Iranians whose laws are based on ancient ways.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • angryAmerican

      Gotta be careful painting a group of people with a single brush that wide, your likely to get some on yourself also.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      You're right, Mr. Angry, yet it does seem that religious foolishness dominates in the South.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  14. TJ

    So I guess all them dinasaur bones, diamonds and geological formations that take millions of years to form are all the work of the devil? I know people that were taught this through schools run by these lunatics.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • ch

      How about those bones that still have soft bone marrow? Or the ones that still have blood vessels? Now they make diamonds in labs in very short periods of time. Oh yeah it takes a very long time to fossilize something, really then why do we have cowboy boots with feet in them fossilized? If you want there are places that you can send something to and get it fossilized in a month.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      ch, you sound silly and desperate. Give it up, man.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • claybigsby

      CH, the first fossils were discovered a long time ago. There are references in ancient chinese writings 2000+ years ago of fossils being found. I guess they were creating those fossils in a month too, what a conspiracy.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • ch

      I think you miss the point for proof of soft tissue in dinosaur bones
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050325100541.htm

      As far as fossilization my point is that we used to believe it took long periods of time science has now proven that it does not, finding bones 2000 years ago does not mean it takes a long time. The process can happen quickly which is my point

      January 11, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      @ch

      You should read about how your creationist buddies have lied about dinosaur "soft tissue." Start with;
      "Dino-blood and the Young Earth"
      http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dinosaur/blood.html

      January 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Maya

      @ ch – YOU are the reason belief in creationism is a problem. You just believe whatever you are told without ever bothering to verify your sources. The "reasons" that you claim are evidence against an old earth have been thoroughly debunked.

      January 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  15. angryAmerican

    When it comes down to the meat and potatoes of things it doesnt really matter.. Ive known and know many religious folk and many non religious folk and everyone has some belief in one thing or another. Sit down in the room with them both and they both have their opinions and bias and are generally the same people. Whether or not God made it all, or evolution is the reason were here dont change a damn thing in most of our lives. Religious folk may descriiminate against a group of people for their beliefs, but non religious often descriminate against religious for theirs and it goes round and round like every other disagreement mankind has with each other, The day we dont care about someone else beliefs and just be happy and embrace our own is the day things will be better.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • BradW

      Please explain how we could each sit down and believe our own when we are surrounded by evangelical, proselytizing dunderheads.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  16. Concerned

    What happened to the known 260 living species of monkeys NOW living? Why did they stop "evolving"?

    January 11, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • joe

      They haven't stopped evolving – who said they had?

      January 11, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • Concerned

      @joe, that doesn't answer the question. If we all evolved from monkeys, then why do monkeys still exist at all.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • Jon

      Wow. What an ignorant comment, it's scary. Evolution isn't linear. There are dozens of types of Apes in the world. We are just one of them who split off hundreds of thousands of years ago. My IQ has gone down just reading your ridiculous post.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      Despite the staggering ignorance of your question, I have to assume you are serious. Let me guess. You're not a scientist, are you?

      January 11, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      @Concerned – I am a young earth creationist as well but your argument is bad. Evolutionists do not believe we evolved from modern monkeys. Evolutionists believe that humans and monkeys both evolved from some kind of ancient extinct monkey that evolved out of existance a long time ago. Please go to the Answers In Genesis website to read up on creationist scientific theory.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • TownC

      Evolutionists make stuff up as new information comes along. They make new information fit even if it is problematic to their theory. They are unwilling to look at information objectively.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • Adam

      I'm sorry but just because humans evolved from closely related primates does not mean that those closely related primates would have to go away in order for human evolution to happen.. Species branch and evolve and continue along they're own path. Like the branchs of a tree. Your question drips with ignorance of even the most basic principles of evolution...

      It's like this one:

      Oh, they human eye is so complex – it was designed and there is no way it happened by accident.. so It has to have been created by ___.

      Complex and amazing structures form on their own in nature constantly. Just because we can't identify exactly what causes something, or fully observe the process happening, or even describe the process fully yet, does not mean that we therefore have to pin it on so Magic Creator. This is called the god of the gaps argument, look it up. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps

      January 11, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • Concerned

      @TownC – Exactly, they don't have an answer, so they get angry and insult you (typical response) and make up their own answer.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Jim

      I am not angry, you are just ignorant...

      January 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Maya

      Answers in Genesis? Are you serious? When someone cites only the Bible when answering scientific questions, that is a clue that they are NOT credible.

      January 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      @concerned (and his creationist pals)

      The "why are there still monkeys" question is so tired, and misinformed that it really invites sarcasm. First, the great apes diverged from the African monkeys about 23 million years ago. The lineage we belong to separated from the chimp lineage around 6-7 million years ago. For the data and analysis from multiple studies, see;

      Glazko GV, Nei M.
      2003 "Estimation of divergence times for major lineages of primate species" Mol Biol Evol. Vol:20(3):424-34.
      http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/20/3/424.long

      See if you can follow a metaphor: "If Americans came from Europe why are there still Europeans?" Or, "If you came from your parents, why do you have cousins?"

      January 11, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  17. 755775

    There are MANY of us protestants who believe the Bible is not intended to be accurate historically or scientifically. Of course the world is much older than 6,000 years. God gave us a brain and intends us to use it! Humans evolved from a much lower form of human beings, although, maybe not from a single cell crawling out of the ocean. The Bible can still be God's word to us about how to live our lives. We just don't have to accept all the cultural rules from thousands of years ago or any of the obviously false geography and science.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • claybigsby

      "The Bible can still be God's word to us about how to live our lives"

      Please explain how the bible can be gods word when mere mortals no smarter than you or I wrote it. The people who wrote about Jesus never knew him and only wrote about him 40+ years after his death. Please leave out the argument of "they were influenced by god". This is all according to the human beings who wrote the bible and with mankind being the most conniving, cynical, fallible species we know about, I would be inclined not to believe someone without PROOF (not faith but actual evidence).

      January 11, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      Many of your fellow "Christians" categorically refuse to use the brain God gave them, because they think of intellect and being smart as being "elitist". These same "Christians" show no empathy at all for their fellow citizens, believing that helping others in any way is "socialism". So here we have people who reject intellect and empathy, the two defining characteristics of human beings. What gives?

      January 11, 2012 at 7:51 am |
  18. NJBob

    If anyone still needs proof that Americans are scientifically illiterate, they'll certainly find it here. Theists have no clue how natural selection works to produce evolution. Not a clue!! It's a national embarrassment! It's no wonder this country scores so low in science and math relative to other industrialized countries.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • Neutral Opinion

      A guy on this board wrote it best, why does everyone have so much to say about others who's belief system is not that of their owns. I am ok with someone believing in God or evolution – whatever floats your boat is ok with me. But the bitter arguments coming from both sides of the fence is just ludicrous to me and often get those who really don't know what they are talking about on both sides of the fence. Like your statement as you degrade what other people think or know and you are totally wrong! Natural selection deals only with the number of species, not the change of species to another. It has to do with the survival and not the arrival of the species. Before you criticize what others know, it'll be great for you to speak the truth about your so-called education on the matter. Microevolution doesn't prove Macroevolution.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • Alyssa

      @Neutral, that's like saying that my take many small steps to get across the street doesn't prove that I crossed the street.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  19. JAB62

    Humans are conditioned through evolution to believe in BS to help them cope. The one's who can cope are the one's who survive. Read Dawkins. Now days we have real answers to fill most of the the holes and the need for BS is dwindling. People now need to learn to cope with reality.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  20. mark

    wow religion

    January 11, 2012 at 7:11 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.