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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. Joe

    I just dont get why this is a story on CNN.. I assume its just to attack the Church and in turn make Repubs look bad.. Normal play book for CNN...
    I to dont belive in creationism but there are holes in eveloution... Dont act like everything is just a fact because we still have no clue about when man first had a civilization..

    January 11, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • zip

      A billion people on this planet talk to an imaginary voice in their head for guidance. This article just points out how ridiculous this notion is.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Joe

      A billion ppl also think a COW is sacred but where is the story on how that is crazy??? Oh yeah CNN cant offend anyone but catholics..haha
      Again, im not a god person but really this is a non story

      January 11, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Portland tony

      Oh, it's not CNN. Man has argued religion forever. Let each of us believe what's in our hearts and minds and rationally verbalize our opinions and differences once in a while.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Vupra

      Republicans look bad all by themselves. No one needs to do a thing.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Joe

      Portland, I agree that we can all get along just believing in whatever we want but CNN is throwing this story out there to keep with the "Dumb Catholic red-neck" .. Thats what they try to sterotrype ppl from the south who vote for Repubs.. This is just fuel for the fire of the readers of this site.. CNN is lazy and wont report news anymore.. Just keep pushing the Dem talking points.. Its a joke and why Fox kills them in ratings

      January 11, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  2. bspurloc

    ONLY in the USA are religious leaders so arrogantly ignorant.... All other countries accept EVEOLUTION as fact cuz to not do so means u r a bit insane.....

    January 11, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Mike

      Agreed

      January 11, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Spencer

      I don't know about that. Not defending U.S. religious leaders, but I'd imagine you have some zealots from other religions that believe their dogma despite contradictory scientific evidence, evolution or otherwise. I mean, don't get me wrong. They're idiots. Just not special or rare idiots, unfortunately.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  3. Jake

    Of course they're going to reject evolution, they've been taught to. They can't explain how Noah's family after the flood that supposidly killed everyone on Earth was able to reproduce such a variety of races and ethnic groups without evolution, but hey it just happened, right? After all you get two middle-eastern folks together and somehow they'll produce blond hair blue eyed folks with one birth and the next birth could be short black nappy-haired dark skinned baby...just random kids. And then when they got old Noah's family told them that the darker skinned you are the warmer of a region they should migrate to. And the lighter skinned you are the colder and darker of a region they should go to. And off went several thousand kids to the regions they were instructed to go. See, no need for evolution. Oh by the way what do these pastors call it when a bacteria modifies itself over time in order to be reistant to antibiotics if that's not evolution? Because it does happen. Or do these pastors also reject that this event even occurs? Yes, the Earth is 6000 years old yet the oldest tree is 9950 years old, based on the rings and carbon dating. So God put a 3000 year old tree on Earth when he first created it, because it's kindda neat to have something old already there, right?

    January 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  4. Cindy

    Sure they don't; believe. It makes their job irrelevant. The people who get their science and history from church on sunday are idiots. Leave your brain at the door when you enter the church door. I can't stand stupid people. I see a whole lot of stupid going on.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Cindy, let me take a guess. Your chronological age is in your mid twenties while you spiritual immaturity resides back in 1st or 2nd grade? No more hiding behind science that uncovers our universe because they did a great job uncovering the spiritual immaturity of this generation.

      Grow up. Learn Jesus' spiritual truth so you can mature into adulthood. I appreciate you love science, I hope you are in that field. With Jesus' lessons of taking responsibility for your thoughts/beliefs/actions in life to live righteously, I pray that you achieve all that you can be.

      Amen.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  5. Barry Cochran

    I believe that so many people are afraid of seeing the truth that is evident in evolution because they feel it weakens the validity of their beliefs. It causes doubt in their own heart. I believe the magic of creation and life is far more complex than our human minds can concieve at this point in time. Just because life wasn't created in 7 days with the wave of a magic wand, doesn't mean it is any less miraculous. I am a gratefully recovering Southern Baptist, and that is what I believe.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • chasmass NYC

      Agreed. It's beyond me why people insist on limiting God to stories written several thousand years ago by people living in stone huts. Throughout history - and certainly pre-history, as well - people have sought explain why things are the way they are. People several thousand years ago did the best that they could, but it was crude and unenlightened. God has blessed us with a wonderful brain - a brain that can reason on the puzzles of the universe - and I don't get why some people refuse to use it.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  6. CreatedbyGod

    One of the simplest and best proofs that evolution is a joke, is the FACT that there is NO recorded history prior to 4,000 B.C. The world's history is CLEARY defined by SIX world powers since time began: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Since Rome's fall in 476 A.D., there have been no world-powers (many super-powers; but, no world-powers). At the time of Moses, Egypt ruled the world. The Israelites were used as slave labor by Pharaoh to build the pyramids. Before Egypt, there is absolutely nothing recorded in history about a world-power.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • yummboy

      There so no recorded hisotry because aliens destroyed the great old grandpa of civilizations, Atlantis, and everything is under water.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Cindy

      I hope you are being sarcastic. By the way., God didn't write anything. Jesus never wrote anything. The bible stories were written by individuals (mostly uneducated desert hut dwellers) a hundred years or more after Jesus, the man, apparently died. Those books have been changed so much through time to fit the needs of those pushing their brand of heroin it is ridiculous.. J

      January 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • KindaSorta

      Just because there were no super powers in charge does not mean the earth did not exist. It just means people were smart enough control one another.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • brobin

      Wow.. that is the worse logic I have ever heard. I don' t know where you get your facts, but you might want to learn some history. There is so much evidence against 6000 years a grade one student could reject your proposition with about 5 minutes on google.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Please explain why there were no computers before the 20th century. DUH!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Dr.K.

      A. Even if what you are saying were true, it is an argument against the age of the earth, not the process of evolution.

      B. How do you know how old those empires are? Archaeology? Radiometric dating? Stratigraphy? Those are the same methods that indicate that the age of the earth is measured in the billions of years, and the age of human development is measure in millions of years. You can't have it both ways.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Jeebus

      Lol.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • lmpeters

      Your point being?? Just because it wasn't recorded and saved over billions of years means it didn't happen?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Jeebus

      That's the problem with religion, it helps you get rid of logic.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Written word with rules of grammar etc? You're correct.
      However, pictographs, ideograms and petroglyphs pre-date the written word.
      The oldest petroglyphs are dated to approximately the Neolithic and late Upper Paleolithic boundary, about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Around 7,000 to 9,000 years ago, other writing systems such as pictographs and ideograms began to appear.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • yummboy

      Cindy,

      "God" did write something, he laser-etched them in stone with his light-sabre, otherwise known as the Ten Commandments. Which further proves to me that God is an alien.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      @createdbygod, who wrote, "the FACT that there is NO recorded history prior to 4,000 B.C."

      That FACT is not much of a fact. I suggest reading

      Schmandt-Besserat, Denise
      1992 "Before Writing Volume I: From counting to cuneiform" Austin: University of Texas Press

      January 11, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • WASP

      i would call cave paintings in various places of the world, recorded history.

      A virtual revolution occurred in the creation of art during the period of the Upper Paleolithic in Europe. Beginning around 40,000 B.C., the archaeological record shows that anatomically modern humans effectively replaced Neanderthals and remained the sole hominid inhabitants across continental Europe.

      http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/lasc/hd_lasc.htm

      January 19, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  7. dash_bannon

    What's odd is that I was raised Presbyterian and at NO POINT did my pastor ever talk about evolution, or imply that the Earth was 6,000 years old. He preached about how Jesus taught us to love one another and to be our brother's keeper. I learned of a compassionate Jesus.

    Somehow, Protestantism went from teaching the gospel of brotherly love to one of fire, damnation, and literal interpretation. The Bible doesn't have to be literally true for Jesus' message to be true. If we truly took on the task of loving one another and being brotherly to each other, the world would be a much better place.

    Religion serves its higher purpose when it reminds us we're not mere material objects, but something else. When religions get literal, they lose touch with that higher purpose.

    To put it another way, one doesn't have to think Yoda is real to enjoy the messages he teaches in Star Wars.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • KindaSorta

      Well said!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Jeebus

      Kudos to that explanation! Also fear is the best form of control, and what's scarier than burning in "hell" for all of eternity?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  8. AngerBot

    Some day we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny...

    January 11, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  9. Dave

    The exact same roots of Republcan willful ignorance.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  10. Linda

    And which American Protestant pastors did they query? All evangelicals with a few main line thrown in? Unfortunately this gives the impression that 73% of all Protestant pastors think in this uninformed, unenlightened way. I for one . . . a Protestant Pastor, embrace evolution as just another way of God's unfolding in the universe. . . .(And for you atheists out there. . .not the male God with the long white beard. There are many more expansive ways to image God).

    January 11, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Rob

      but they are all invariably wrong....Religion is a con...a scam to trick the weakest minded people into being sheep (not they weren't already) to your personal delusions....

      January 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Jeebus

      I would prefer to call it energy than God. Energy is what the universe is and what we are all made up of.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  11. yummboy

    Ok, I have a question to all the Bible experts. We all know Adam and Eve, the "first Man and Woman". They, at first, had two sons, Cain and Abel. Of course, Cain kills Abel and as punishment, he was exiled. But lo and behold! Cain manages to find a wife in the land where he was exiled and have kids. So obviously, the question is where did this woman come from?

    My theory is that this woman was an alien.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Linda

      Well that is the conundrum, isn't it, if we take this story literally and treat Adam and Eve and their offspring as actual historical figures. Maybe the message is much bigger than that? For instance, the message that you are your brother's keeper? We don't have to take the Bible literally . . .to take its messages seriously.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Cindy

      And on top of that they would have had to have been having incest with each other to procreate. It scares the hell out of me that these people vote.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • dash_bannon

      When i was 12, I asked my Pastor that very question. If Adam and Eve were the first people, how come there are so many people today. His answer was clever: The Bible doesn't say that God also created other people after them.

      If you really want to figure it out read A History of God by Karen Armstrong.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • yummboy

      Linda,

      I completely agree. The Bible should never be taken litearlly; it is just a guide on how to treat others (especially the new testament, I dont care much about an 'eye for an eye' or stoning in the Old Testament). At the same time, people who claim they are 'saved' and going to 'heaven' shouldn't act like they are God and pass judgement. They are not God, and if there is a God and if HE has a problem with any of us, then we should get our 'surprises in the afterlife. Nobody should assume they will go to heaven because that just smacks of conceit and an insult to God himself.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  12. ReligionIs4Dolts

    To those who don't think evolution is proven.... please explain how science has proven that microorganisms adapt their genes when faced with substances that kill them. Ever hear in recent decades about how antibiotics are increasingly failing because the darn bacteria keep changing to overcome them (MRSA is a good example)? You should read more than just your ancient bible/quran/torah (e.g., read some Richard Dawkins) and learn about how such experiments have been conducted on microorganisms since I think the 60's or 70's. This is proven!

    Furthermore, how do you explain more macro changes such as the fact that humans can be born as polydactyls (that is, with 12 fingers/toes instead of 10). Did you know that a polydactyl can reproduce and have children who are also polydactyl? What if polydactyls were to become the dominant form of our species at some point in time? Then humans would be said to have evolved don't you think?

    January 11, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • God

      You are correct. However, you forget that some humans (mostly republicans) have evolved with half a brain. Therefore they don't understand evolution !

      January 11, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • volleydan

      The story didn't say that they don't believe in evolution at all – it said that they don't believe God used evolution to create the first man. There's a pretty big leap between what was in the actual article and what you're maintaining.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Rob

      While I get your point, it's still wrong.....evolution is a THEORY and as such, remains "unproven" by definition....that doesn't mean that the religious idiots are correct, only that your justification for believing what you believe is inaccurate....

      January 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  13. ThatGuiTHere

    Im really just waiting for the alien disclosure. Once this happens, there will be str8 fact answers in whether this planet was made 6,000 years ago or millions and millions of years ago.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  14. cougarblu

    This just in: 7/10 Southern Baptist pastors don't believe in gravity, the existence of oxygen, or deductive reasoning.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      They also oppose gay marriage, racial integration, widespread literacy and the refrigeration of food.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  15. GHale

    Wow. There's a whole lot of stupid going on in this article. I don't really care what an individual believes, but when that belief is directly contrary to known scientific fact (DO NOT give me the "it's just a theory" line; if you think that then you do not understand what the word means) that individual should not be in any position of authority.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • God

      You are due for a visit from the Spanish Inquisition !!! :)

      January 11, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  16. volleydan

    I didn't read the entire survey, but from the one question posted I don't see where it says pastors don't believe in evolution. What it actually says was that they don't believe God used evolution to create the first man. Big difference.

    Of course, since the topic is religion, people won't bother to read the article anyway – they'll just start spewing their hatred (both ways, unfortunately).

    It's increasingly difficult to feel too sorry for Christians because so many don't take the time to really study the Bible and find a sound, rational basis for what they profess as their beliefs. The actions of lunatic fringe groups and money-grubbing pastors don't help either. It would be far easier to defend Christianity if more Christians truly reflected Christ.

    But it's also really disappointing to see the non-believers be so casual in the way they would rudely attack the religious beliefs of others. The fact that non-believers almost to a man want to claim some sort of intellectual superiority is just the icing on the cake (nothing more annoying than to try to have a discussion with someone whose initial argument is 'I'm smarter than you because I reject faith").

    It makes it even worse when discussions like this are held on the internet, where all rules of courtesy and honesty get checked at the door. Never having to face the people you are "talking" to makes for some pretty bold remarks. The internet seems to be leading to the death of both intellectual honesty and common courtesy.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • lmpeters

      Agree with you 100%! Well said!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  17. Akira

    Those 7 out of 10 are guilty of spreading ignorance in the pulpit.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Nick

      Exactly. Do they also believe that earth is not round?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Kevin

      Nick, sadly, yes. Look up the Flat Earth Society. Yet another product of Christian 'heavy thinkers'.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  18. Furseal

    As a stats person I would LOVE to see the study methodology, especially their 'random' 100 Protestant churches. I have a strong feeling this 'study' had predetermined results and the churches selected were less than 'random'.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  19. God

    This poll only proves that evolution isn't happening quickly enough !

    January 11, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  20. Mike

    70% of pastors are idiots. They have the same kind of stone age thinking that the mullahs in Afghanistan got.

    Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of scientists believe in evolution, the big bang, and are atheists.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:05 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.