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June 22nd, 2011
12:28 PM ET

U.S. evangelicals gloomy about future, 'global south' optimistic, study finds

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - Half the world's evangelical Protestant leaders are optimistic about the future, confident that evangelical Christians have an increasing influence in their countries and that things will be better for them in five years.

The other half are pessimists, convinced they're losing influence on the life of their countries and mostly not persuaded that things will be better for Christianity where they live in the future.

Those are among the findings of a groundbreaking survey of more than 2,000 evangelical leaders from around the world, which the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released Wednesday

The split on optimism is between north and south, and the way it breaks down might surprise you.

It's evangelicals in the comparatively poor south who see a bright future ahead - Africans, Latin Americans and Middle Easterners.

Those from the developed world, where evangelical Christianity was born, are the pessimists. And Americans are among the most glum of all, with more than eight out of 10 evangelical Christian leaders there saying that the movement is losing influence in the United States today.

Among other results from the survey:

- Only 3% of evangelical Christian leaders believe in evolution as defined by scientists. About half believe God created the planet and life on it as it is now, while four out of 10 say there has been evolution, but it was guided by God.

- Nearly all believe abortion is usually or always morally wrong. A similar number say the same thing about homosexuality.

- They feel generally positive about Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews but have a low opinion of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and atheists, with atheists rating the lowest of all. (Evangelicals from Muslim-majority countries tend to have higher opinions of Muslims than those who live elsewhere, the Pew Forum found.)

- Half say the Bible should be read literally. Half say not everything in it should be taken literally.

- Half say it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. Half say it isn't.

Pew Forum Director Luis Lugo said the "optimism gap" between north and south struck him the most about the survey.

"There are huge differences between the global south, who see things getting better, compared to the global north, and particularly the U.S., where we get down to 31% who see things being better five years from now," he said.

But the respondents' perceptions may not reflect reality, said Michael Cromartie, an expert on evangelical Christians and a senior adviser to the Pew Forum not involved in the survey.

"In the United States, evangelicals feels like they're losing influence because the elite culture isn't sympathetic or sees them as intolerant - which I don't think it is the case, but it's how they're perceived," said Cromartie, who directs the Evangelicals in Civic Life program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.

In the global south, on the other hand, "You could see yourself having influence because the numbers (of evangelical Christians) are growing so fast," he said.

"The numbers are exploding. That doesn't necessarily mean you have influence, but you feel like you have influence."

Both sides think the south - where a majority of evangelicals now live - should have more influence on the movement as a whole, the survey found.

"We were surprised to see a majority thought that the global south should be contributing more - and leaders from the global south were even more self-critical," Lugo said.

Leaders from the south tend to be more conservative than those from the north, a pattern that mimics that in the global Anglican Communion, for example. If the south gains influence over time, it could push the movement as a whole in an even more conservative direction.

But Lugo points out that the south is not a monolith.

"Latin America is much closer to North America and Europe than to the rest of the global south" in its attitudes, he said. "They tend to be less conservative on homosexuality even than European leaders, and less conservative on tithing and biblical literalism than the rest of the global south."

The Pew Forum surveyed 2,196 participants in the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held in Cape Town, South Africa, in October. The respondents were leaders sent by their home churches and mirror the geographical map of evangelical Christians around the globe, the Pew Forum said.

There are at least 260 million followers of the movement worldwide, the Pew Forum said.

The conference where it conducted the survey is a follow-up to one Billy Graham convened in 1974 in Switzerland.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

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soundoff (611 Responses)
  1. Goodstuff

    When you step back from it, it still seems so infantile to ask for wishes from an invisible cloud genie. Mankind will only be ready for religion once it has outgrown it.

    And before the zealots start their bleating, no, I’m not an Atheist.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Peter F

      Don't let your anger control you. That is how evil (however you want to label it) works itself into our culture

      June 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      Then what are you?

      June 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • George

      Yes, young one anger controls and leads to the dark side of the force.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • JW

      What do you believe? I am not attacking. I am just curious.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • John

      Father and son will rule the universe! The force is strong in you my son!

      June 22, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  2. valwayne

    Evangelicals have good reason to be gloomy. First there is Obama's bad economy, debt, and 9.1% UNEMPLOYMENT making us all gloomy. Then there is the realization that we live in a nation where Obama's Network, NBC, deletes the words "nation under God, Indivisible" from the Pledge of Allegiance. The American way of life, the American Dream, and the concept of God are under assault by an extreme left wing President and those that support him out to transform our nation into something we won't recognize. And so far they are winning!

    June 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • חֲנוֹךְ

      A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

      The average age of the worlds greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

      From Bondage to spiritual faith;

      From spiritual faith to great courage;

      From courage to liberty;

      From liberty to abundance;

      From abundance to complacency;

      From complacency to apathy;

      From apathy to dependence;

      From dependence back into bondage.

      Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee
      (October 15, 1747 – January 5, 1813)
      Scottish-born British lawyer and writer.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • חֲנוֹךְ

      From dependence back into bondage.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • George

      Another tea drinker who likes bondage. "Lord, deliver me from these fools"

      June 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      I hate to tell you this, but the economy Obama is struggling with is the direct result of 3 decades of de-regulation that was supported by the Religious Right. Look at statements from Jerry Falwell and other evangelicals in the 1980s, and you see their whole-hearted support of conservative politics. Evangelicals embaraced the realities of secular power, and it has come back to bite them. Don't blame Obama if 3 decades of bad policy built to legitmise greed has come back to bite you. Maybe if you read Ayn Rand and her attacks on Christianity, you would understand its not the Left you need to fear, its the conservatives who worship Rand and quote "Atlas Shrugged" that evangelicals need to fear. Rand was an atheist whose attacks on religion mirror Marx: guess who Paul Ryan regards as the guiding force in his life? I can tell you already its not JC.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • EZRA

      Man the tae-baggers are really obsessed with having a balck man in the White house. You can't break wind without some bagger blamng Obama for it. Global Warming? Obams's fault. Evangelicals losing influence? Obama's fault. Floods in the South? Obama's fault. Time to get some help.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Free

      חֲנוֹךְ
      Can unquestioning adherence to an ideology, even a religious one, be considered a form of 'bondage'?

      June 23, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  3. M

    All we can do is encourage people to think for themselves. Plenty of people have started one way and then later in life found themselves of a completely different mind and spirit.

    The only illogical thing is supressing ones thoughts and imposing your will upon those who have yet to develop a will of their own. Teach openly your faith and beliefs and let people come to their own conclusions.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • TheyNotHim

      You guys have been doing that for centuries now and the answer is in: organized religion is a force of evil, the bible is a farce and a tool used by the elite to subjugate the masses, and we are awake to those facts and won't let you push us around anymore...have a nice day!

      June 22, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  4. John1010

    Jesus rose from the dead. That's Christianity whether society likes it, or not. All the unbelief in the world won't and can't change the Resurrection. Unbelievers would like Him to go away but they'll never pull it off.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @John1010

      You Said: "Jesus rose from the dead. That's Christianity whether society likes it, or not. All the unbelief in the world won't and can't change the Resurrection."

      That very well may be one of -the- main (tenets) of Christianity. And... 'Non-belief' nor actually...'belief' in the Resurrection, doesn't necessarily *mean* that it actually happened in *reality.*

      Regards,

      Peace...

      June 22, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Gary

      And "Peace" disbelief does not undo the Resurrection. It occurred whether you believe in it or not.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Adam

      I am going to ask you a very sincere and a very important question, that I would like you to answer, as well as keep in mind in the future:

      How do you know that?

      June 22, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • George

      Or does it not occur whether you believe it or not?

      June 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Gary

      Adam, I know because I have a personal relationship with God, given to me through the sacrifice of Jesus. I see and feel direct evidence of his involvement in my life, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Zombie Jesus.

      And what happened to zombie Lazarus. Still walking the earth? And the other dead that rose from their graves upon zombie Jesus' alleged crucifiction.

      Zombies eveywhere!

      June 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • John

      You have any proof he rose from the dead beside a book written long after his death?

      June 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Jaberg123

      @Adam: I'm thinking of ranking all posts on any subject everywhere on the internet, just so that I can rank yours first

      @Gary: Does it bother you that you would have a similar response ( I have a personal relationship with God, given to me through.....) about a different god had you been born in : Saudi Arabia, Bnei Brak, Mumbai, Ancient Cairo, Ancient Greece, etc.?

      June 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Gary

      No Jaberg, I would not have that relationship. There is only one God.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Jaberg123

      @Gary: allow to quote Adam. " How do you know that?"

      June 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Gary

      Because, as I answered above "Adam, I know because I have a personal relationship with God, given to me through the sacrifice of Jesus. I see and feel direct evidence of his involvement in my life, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit."

      June 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Jaberg123

      @Gary. To me that is equivalent to saying " I don't know actually know that the resurrection happened or that the Christion god exists, but it makes me feel very very good to believe this, so I accept it despite the complete lack of evidence"

      June 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Gary

      Jaberg.. Not at all. I see tangible evidence of God working in and through others. I have answered prayer and the changed life that comes only from Him. I feel His hand of comfort in my life. His presence at times so clear it is overwhelming. I know this sounds strange to those without this relationship, but try explaining other things to those who have never experienced them.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • John

      If Gary replaced the word god with say the word "Zeus" he'd be put into a psych ward but since he says "god" and "jesus" it is rationale! Lol isn't it amazing how that works. No proof for either one but if you say Zeus just about everyone thinks your insane, say god or jesus and only people who functioning brains think your insane. Go figure.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • George

      Gary, you do realize that those with Alzheimer disease truly believe things that are no longer true. And others with severe mental illnesses have the same convictions about aliens and the like. I am not saying you are wrong, but then again, you can't say you are right, just what you believe and that is not truth, but belief.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Jaberg123

      @Gary: I was an orthodox jew once upon a time. I know the feeling you describe. Given the fact that we are just an advanced species of ape whose skulls contain an evolved, but highly error-prone organ, it is prudent to be more skeptical about one's feelings. Spiritual experiences are not reliable indicators of any one god.

      Lets say that a Hindu tells you the following: " I see tangible evidence of God working in and through others. I have answered prayer and the changed life that comes only from Him. I feel His hand of comfort in my life. His presence at times so clear it is overwhelming. I know this sounds strange to those without this relationship, but try explaining other things to those who have never experienced them." Do you find this convincing? Do you run to your local bookstore to start thumbing the pages of the Bhagavad Gita? Do you even question, for one second your pre-existent faith? If not, why don't you?

      June 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Gary

      Hey -Gary...

      I said to @John1010..."And... 'Non-belief' nor actually...'belief' in the Resurrection, doesn't necessarily *mean* that it actually happened in *reality.*"

      You then said to me..."And "Peace" disbelief does not undo the Resurrection. It (occurred) whether you believe in it or not."

      Please provide factual, indisputable, demonstrable, tangible, undeniable, direct...(evidence), that absolutely *proves* your claim.

      Otherwise, it is an unproven speculative assumption.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      June 22, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Adam

      Hi Gary. You are using the Argument from Personal Experience. Instead of going on a long diatribe about why this is not a convincing reason for me I'm going to somewhat lazily use something I found that Richard Dawkins has written about this that I found a pretty succinct response to this argument:

      "The argument from personal experience is the one that is most convincing to those who claim to have had one. But it is the least convincing to anyone else, especially anyone knowledgeable about psychology. Many people believe in God because they believe they have seen a vision of him — or of an angel or a virgin in blue — with their own eyes. Or he speaks to them inside their heads.

      "You say you have experienced God directly? Well, some people have experienced a pink elephant, but that probably doesn't impress you.

      "Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, distinctly heard the voice of Jesus telling him to kill women, and he was locked up for life. George W. Bush says that God told him to invade Iraq (a pity God didn't vouchsafe him a revelation that there were no weapons of mass destruction)."

      June 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • EZRA

      "Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. Otherwise, there wouldn't be religious people." – HOUSE

      June 22, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @EZRA- Citing a make believe character.....good counter.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Chad

      To go along with Gary here. I had a great piece of chocolate cake after dinner tonight. I can go into detail about it's taste, appearance etc.....the fact is I can not make you expereince it via these words no matter how well I try to define it. A relationship with Jesus is like that, you have to try it to understand it....I nor anyone else can not make anyone understand it. It has to be expereinced. So here is my dare get a NIV version of the Bible (that is probably the best translation I feel the average person is good with). Read the book of "James" as a start. Get past the "magic and stories that a non-believer would call fairy tales etc. Just read the beliefs and foundational thought. (Interesting point here is James was Jesus' half brother and according to scripture thought Jesus was a nut earlier in his life too...not James the disciple). Apply the truths to your life , see what happens. If it doesn't then OK go on your way. I just know a lot of people who got their lives together on earth from the Bible, then yeah a relationship with Jesus may develop and be experienced.

      June 22, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Scott

      NO WHERE in the bible does anyone claim to have seen Christ rise from the dead.NOT ONE EYE WITNESS

      June 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  5. Frank Cardenas

    Christianity's intolerance will be its undoing. The radical Jesus rejected intolerance and judgement but Christians can't seem to "follow" Him on this.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • חֲנוֹךְ

      You seem to miss the big picture. Intolerance is not reserved to christians alone. I've met intolerant mindsets from all walks of life... atheist included.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • John

      AMEN!

      June 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Gary

      So Frank, you sound intolerant to Christians. Not all Christians are the same, as all people of any group, be it ethic, racial, gender, ... are the same. To lump all together shows your intolerance.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • JW

      I think Frank is saying that since Christianity is founded on the teachings of Jesus that all Christians should live by his example.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Gary

      JW – I am a Christian, like millions of others, that do try to live by His teachings. But my point is that to make blanket statements about any group shows intolerance. If I said "Women are", "Albanians are"... would be silly. So saying "Christians are" is just silly.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Free

      חֲנוֹךְ
      A lot of atheist intolerance is reactionary to the constant propaganda that we are inherently evil coming out of religious circles. We were hated and demonized long, long, long before the first brave nonbelievers dared to admit their skepticism publicly.

      June 22, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Lycidas

      So you are justifying their bad behavior because of a past they were not directly connected to?

      June 22, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Free

      Lycidas
      Christians can justify their bad behavior by referencing past persecutions and even Bible verses that they think predict their being criticized. Both of these things are hopelessly out of context, but they use them nonetheless to explain how a majority such as themselves can be 'victimized' by a minority of nonbelievers, and how they are free to ignore any and all criticism of their beliefs and practices. I'm not saying that any of it is right.

      June 23, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Free-"Christians can justify their bad behavior by referencing past persecutions and even Bible verses that they think predict their being criticized."

      No..they can't. They might think they can but cherry-picking the Bible to justify bad behavior is never right. I never put up with it from my fellow Christians when they try it. It would be better if more wouldn't let ppl do that.

      June 23, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Free

      Uncouth Swain
      Isn't all justification merely attempts to make a case in your favor for something? That's what separates it from 'proof', right?

      June 23, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  6. Aradan

    “more than eight out of 10 evangelical Christian leaders there saying that the movement is losing influence in the United States today.”

    This makes sense.

    There is an inverse decline in religiosity as education increases. Less educated people are more likely to believe in miracles, heaven, devils, and that adversity is a punishment for sin. And surveys are showing there is a continuing increase in populations who identify themselves as “none” or as Non-theists.

    I think a large part of this belief migration is attributable to the rise of the internet over the last two decades – the web is a doorway to information and education. As people read and learn from articles like these, as their minds encounter differing points of view and their beliefs are challenged and opinions evolve, it’s slowly changing the religious landscape of the world.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • חֲנוֹךְ

      The first mass printing was the scriptures. It's spread was what propagated that increase in education. You could say, there would be no internet had it not been for those scriptures. Irony.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Stevie7

      The printing press itself increased education. Not the bible. Had Gutenberg decided to print something other than the bible initially, there's absolutely no reason to think there wouldn't be an internet. No irony at all, just false logic.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Gary

      Sorry, there are millions of highly educated people of faith. I am a patent holder and scientist, who happens to also be a Christian. There is no conflict there at all.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Stevie7

      @Gary,

      You are in the minority. 60% of scientists are atheists according to recent polls. There is a clear correlation between education and a lack of religious beliefs.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Gary

      Steve, whether you "believe" that or not, it does not change reality, that God exists. Science believed the world was flat, the earth was the center of the universe, that a good blood letting would help you, that the atom was the smallest thing, .. . Just because the majority of scientists have not recognized that God is the creator of all is no reason they should feel bad.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • George

      No Gary, the church believed the world was flat and suppressed any attempts to state it any other way, although sailors knew it wasn't long before the church admitted it.
      BTW – Science doesn't believe anything, but theorizes and then requires repeatable demonstrations with predicted outcomes.
      Science isn't already written, it is the discovery of the workings of the universe and if you believe that God created this universe, then science is the search for the word of God.
      Or not......

      June 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  7. TJeff1776

    "We are losing influence"......"We are gaining influence"........North and South differences......South America closer to Southern U. S, views...........MEANINGLESS.......absolutely meaningless.........reminds me of the scripture " and carried about with every wind of doctrine" which this article conveys. EVERY preacher and/or his church believes his/her church to have the best OR only believeable translation. The Protestants, Mormons, Catholics, and Muslims, etc etc etc ALL believe their church to be the ONLY true church on earth........all others are false and each calling the other a sect or a cult. One
    preacher in the article stated "they think us intolerant".........welllllllllll, YES, as a matter of fact....why not ?????

    June 22, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  8. חֲנוֹךְ

    Religion has become a dirty word unless it is tolerant of one peculiar religion of peace. Just surfing these comment threads I see a hypocritical onslaught against people many faiths (not just christianity, but it is the biggest target) as it does not serve the globalist agenda. Just read a story about the economic collapse of Greece with comment threads openly calling for socialist Marxist reformers to clean up the mess. This news story is just another piece of propaganda in a psychological war. Save your comments evangelical atheist. I'm one of those thick heads you will never "save". I'll just leave off with this last point. Everything that is happening in your "victory" was prophesied in those "fairy tale" books you hate so much. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I hope to be alive when "Religion has become a dirty word" is literally true and religion has taken its righful place beside astrology.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      i guess you'll be living forever Ace.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  9. Dave

    Did you hear about the dyslexic agnostic? He often pondered the existence of Dog.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • wow

      ha, that is great

      June 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  10. libfreak48

    The responses – and percentages – are telling. It's quite clear that Evangelicals do not believe in a 'live and let live philosophy', but rather a 'my way or the highway' one.

    Their complete and utter lack of respect for others' beliefs is unique in its religious bigotry. And distinctly un-American.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • libfreak48

      Actually there is ONE other religion, who like Evangelicals, are contemptuous of all other beliefs – fundamentalist, radical Islam.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • RobK

      Un-American? I am sure that most early Americans felt the same way. It is only in the last 50 years or so that so many Americans have lost their faith.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Major

      I don't see evangelical Christians trying to subjugate the entire world into quasi-slavery with Christians as a ruling class. I don't them advocating the utter extermination of Jews. Another major world religion that shall remain nameless does both of those things as mainstream practices. Compared to that religion based on hate and intolerance, evangelicals are the very model of tolerance. They are compared to most atheists, too, as this blog often proves.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Stevie7

      "Compared to that religion based on hate and intolerance, evangelicals are the very model of tolerance. They are compared to most atheists, too, as this blog often proves."

      Can you please point to where any atheist on this blog has ever advocating for denying someone their civil rights?

      June 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • John

      @Major "I don't see evangelical Christians trying to subjugate the entire world into quasi-slavery with Christians as a ruling class."

      Really? That seems to be exactly what they are doing! They want to control people just as much as radical Islam. The only difference is at least the Islamist extremists admit it!

      June 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • J Y B

      Are we reading the same group of comments? The only ones spewing hate and "my way or the highway" are atheists and anti-Christians.

      June 22, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  11. Luce

    Evangelicals may not be optimistic about this world but we are VERY optimistic about the one to come. Maranatha!

    June 22, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • JohnR

      Yeah, well, don't get too co-cky about THAT.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Frank Cardenas

      Jesus taught that "the kingdom of God is witihin you, not lo here or lo there" so all this "rapture" stuff is a fairy tale!

      June 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  12. Zeus

    @GodPot,

    Too bad for you. You might want to stay inside the next time it looks stormy.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Hermes

      Very well stated, sir!

      June 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  13. Rainer Braendlein

    No TV, no cry (don't get it literally!)!

    June 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      Less news, less science education, less knowledge coming in.

      Yeah, no TV is a great concept. ROFL.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @ The Bobinator

      You got me wrong. I meant, time spent watching television, must be reduced.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  14. Colin

    They feel they are losing influence in the USA because they are. It is incu.mbent upon we atheists to redouble our efforts at educating people so as to help them up out of their religious superst.itions. It is a long haul, and some are byond help, but in the long run, we should be able to make significant inroads – at least on the right hand side of the bell curve.

    June 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • John1010

      Thus saith Satan.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Isn't it convenient that when many Christians are met with outlooks or views that they disagree with, they simply attribute those comments to the devil? How close-minded can you get?

      June 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • JPX

      Word

      June 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Barney

      It's easy to bash Christians when you put faith in man. You expect Christians to be perfect. Granted, some "Christians" talk the talk but don't walk the walk. I get that. We are all sinners though. What that means is that we all do things that put wedges between us and our relationship with God. We do things that actually hurt us and we don't know it. The point is to learn about Christ and the real story of the Bible. The point is to have faith in Jesus and what He did for us, rather than having faith in yourself and in other men and your ability to be a cynic. When you have faith in man, you will always be disappointed. When you have faith in Christ, don't expect to get rich or have everything go your way. But expect to grow, expect to feel a deep feeling of peace, joy and love, and expect it to be difficult. But that's the point. If you had a good parent, they didn't just hand everything to you on a silver platter did they? This is a difficult world for a reason. To suffer is to know Christ. To suffer and retain peace, joy, and love is to be like Christ. He only changed the history of the world. No biggie.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • ArnieB

      The key is to develop a culture where people require proof for the things they are going to believe. Once proof is required, religious arguements fall apart.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Stevie7

      "But expect to grow, expect to feel a deep feeling of peace, joy and love, and expect it to be difficult."

      That pretty much describes my experience in becoming an atheist.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • RobK

      One cannot "prove" science. Evidence is gathered that either supports or refutes current theories.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Barney

      Hey -Barney...

      Wow... a lot there in your posting, my friend.

      I think I'll just let go and stay away from the 'suffering' part as much as possible, and continue to have faith in my family, friends, fellow man(in general), etc... and... keep the overall peace, love, joy, and harmony that I have in my life.

      No -Jesus needed, at all, IMO, and in my experience, to have all of this in my life.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      June 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • AJ

      "They feel they are losing influence in the USA because they are. It is incu.mbent upon we atheists to redouble our efforts at educating people so as to help them up out of their religious superst.itions. It is a long haul, and some are byond help, but in the long run, we should be able to make significant inroads – at least on the right hand side of the bell curve."

      Isn't this the same thing many atheist accuse christians of doing? Trying to persuade or force them to believe what they believe is correct. Shouldn’t atheist be as tolerant of other’s beliefs as well, since they expect Christians to be tolerant of others beliefs?

      June 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • TheyNotHim

      @AJ ... no, we are not required to be tolerant of a group of people who attempt to deprive our fellow citizens of their basic human rights. We are in fact required to fight this with all the will we can muster and find allies where we can and use political force when necessary. It is the xtians that need to learn tolerance and let go of their vile tome in favor of true love for their fellow man...

      June 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • J Y B

      I'm sorry, but where are the stats that people are better educated w/in this generation. Everything I read seems to say the opposite. The educational system gets worse and worse, not better. Not that I'm claiming a connection, but the public school system is definitely secular, so you can't blame the Christians. Colleges say their Freshmen are unprepared and the army has a harder time getting recruits to pass entrance exams. The reason people are losing interest is b/c we're self centered, complacent, and naval gazing. It's the churches fault, in part. B/c we are asleep on the job and apathetic. It's got nothing to do with better education and convincing atheists.

      June 22, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  15. Rainer Braendlein

    Switch off TV, Christianity will increase!

    June 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Any decrease in knowledge about the modern world, other belief systems, science, etc. will achieve the same thing.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @Stevie7

      The first cost-free schools in Germany were established by Protestants.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      Isn't that an interesting statement. As a person has less access to information they're more prone to be Christian. You stepped in it this time Rainer.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > The first cost-free schools in Germany were established by Protestants.

      Who cares? Doesn't counteract his point. Would you like to try again?

      June 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Al

      Don't eat from the tree of knowledge.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Al

      Christianity would also increase if there were less reading and less education

      June 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @ AI

      Many scientists were Christians.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Only 10% of the members of the national academy of sciences believes there is a god. So yes, Rainer, some scientists believe in god, but there is a clear correlation between education and atheism.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Free

      Rainer Braendlein
      "The first cost-free schools in Germany were established by Protestants"

      And the first satellite and man was put into space by the Soviets. What's your point?

      June 23, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  16. Uncouth Swain

    I am glad that the largest % sympathizes that both Israel and the Palestinians in their goofed up plight.

    June 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  17. Peace2All

    Hmmm... This whole 'getting worse/better' perception for the evangelicals, doesn't that reflect to a certain extent their general beliefs that the end of days are getting closer and closer, ergo... things are 'supposed' to be getting worse/better anyway(depending on how they are looking at it)... which is good for them, because JC is coming back...?

    Peace...

    June 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      Exactly. If "getting better" means higher numbers, more $, more power, more politicians from their groups in office, are those really compatible values with a group where the founder is said to have chosen to be born purposely powerless, poor, and from a backwater town in a occupied country. What's wrong with this picture ?

      June 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  18. AmazingSteve

    So even the Christians admit that they're losing ground to the atheists? Hooray!

    Also, is anyone even remotely surprised by this statement?
    "It's evangelicals in the comparatively poor south who see a bright future ahead"

    Of course the evangelicals in places with more poor, uneducated people feel better about themselves. Those people are much easier to peddle nonsense to.

    June 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Poor does not always mean uneducated. Especially in the modern world.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Love That Hypochristianity

      Uncouth, they are talking about the global south, meaning the southern hemisphere. I guarantee you that poor means uneducated there.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • JW

      It does not say in the article that Christianity is losing to atheism. I think the concern is more over morality than belief. Atheism will never be a more popular belief than Christianity.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Just the Facts, Ma'am.

      Irreligion has doubled in America in the last 20 years. Similar trends are at work in much of the world. In a number of Western European countries, atheism is already the majority.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @LTH- Ah, when he just said South I thought he meant the southern US...my mistake. What is odd is that from my understanding, Catholicism makes up a larger % than evangelical Christianity does there.

      @Just the Facts, Ma'am- Don't get tricked by % in this case. Someone could find a new cult and get one new member and BAM...that cult just jumped 50%. Just because the very small minority atheism group is growing doesn't mean that they are really making up a significant gain upon the Christian population.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Whether the leader's views fairly represent the rank and file or not, this is good news for non-believers! If the shepherds are gloomy, they will be hard pressed to maintain the spirits of the sheep. And there seems to be lots of confusion about what an evangelical stands for – hopefully this will lead to lots of public bickering and embarassment for the movement as whole.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @JW

      You might want to read:

      https://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/23/religion-to-go-extinct-in-9-countries-experts-predict/

      June 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • JW

      @HotAirAce

      I have read that article. I am sure that religion has become less prevalent in many place. I still don't think that atheism will ever take over. I would be surprised if Christianity isn't still the dominant religion by the time I die.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Just the Facts, Ma'am.

      @Uncouth Swain, irreligion went from 8% to 15%. Those are not insignificant numbers, and not a "very small minority." That's about 45,000,000 Americans. Your "add one person" theory does not apply.

      June 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Christianity (in the USA and Canada) is believed to be declining at 0.9% per year so ground is being made.

      June 22, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "That's about 45,000,000 Americans."

      Still insignificant really. 51% of the US is Protestant..thats over 150,000,000. That's not even counting Catholics. Add them and that's another 68 million.

      My point with the one more example is that smaller groups can rise quickly if one only looks at the % growth. But do you really see irreligion continuing to grow at a rate of 7% every 18 years?

      And let's be clear on another thing, irreligion does not mean atheism....it includes that and agnosticism, deism, skepticism, freethought, secular humanism or general secularism and even New Age. I doubt the typical atheist would say they have a lot in common with a New Age person.

      June 22, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @HotAirAce- What's interesting is that the one group that Democrat/Liberals seem to love in the last few years could hinder any kind of atheist growth: Hispanics.

      Look at Mexico and latin America. They are deeply religious and conservative overall. They are the fastest growing population in the US. What that tells me is that such states like California that has a 18% irreligious population could in fact go down as more Hispanic familes come into the region.

      June 22, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @Uncouth Swain

      You made a good observation. I've way behind on too many programming things now to even attempt a dynamic model taking into account things you suggest. In fact, it hurts my head to just think about it....

      June 23, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  19. Love That Hypochristianity

    Love thy neighbor, unless he is a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim or atheist.

    June 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Free

      Well, that is kinda the original meaning that Jesus was trying to convey. 'Neighbor' meant fellow Jew and countryman, certainly not foreigners, or the occupying Romans. If he had meant everyone he would have said 'everyone', right?

      June 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Lycidas

      No Free...you are quite wrong. Considering that Jesus dealt with the Samaritans and the Romans...helped some of them out, your statement is wrong.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Love That Hypochristianity

      Provide proof of that please. Show me exactly where Jesus excludes anyone from that statement.

      And the phrase originates in Leviticus; Jesus is repeating it, not inventing it. How come atheists know the Bible better than Christians?

      June 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • JW

      I agree with Love That Hypochristianity. When Jesus said Love thy Neighbor he meant that we should love everybody. Unfortunately there are many Christians today that do not live by Jesus' example. All they know about him is that he was born and he died.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "How come atheists know the Bible better than Christians?"

      I don't think they do.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Free

      My mistake, everyone, you are all indeed correct. The original OT meaning was limited to fellow Israelites, but Jesus expanded the notion to include even members of hated groups such as the Samaritans. I misspoke, please accept my apologies.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > I don't think they do.

      Yes, they do. Reading the bible is what leads people to atheism. Cause they realize how stupid it is.

      Remember, sleeping with another man is an abomination. Like wearing polyester, planting wheat and barley in the same field or breeding different types of cattle together.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Evan

      Love That Hypochristianity, Free

      I think you kind of missed the point of Jesus' "Parable of the Good Samaritan".

      Also, one very interesting point in the Gospels is Jesus would harshly criticize the hypocritical religious leaders, but then he would compliment and help the Gentiles and "sinners". (Matthew 9:9; John 8:1-11; Luke 7:1-10; Mark 7:24-30; etc.) Jesus did not heal those who thought they were righteous, but healed those who know they weren't.

      Lastly, God loves those who hate Him. (Matthew 5:43-47; Luke 6:35, etc.)

      "How come atheists know the Bible better than Christians?"

      The God of the Bible is both loving and just. Honestly, some Chrsitians drop the "just" part, focus only on the portions of the scripture that they like, and worship their own image of God. Atheists do the opposite. They drop the "loving" part, focus only on the parts of the Bible that support their view, and refuse to worship this god. The scripture is meant to be read as a whole; a good Christian should study the whole thing.

      To answer this question, Atheists are no better than some Christians at scripture interpretation.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > The God of the Bible is both loving and just.

      Not according to what I have read.

      > Honestly, some Chrsitians drop the "just" part, focus only on the portions of the scripture that they like, and worship their own image of God.

      That's right. They cherry pick good stuff and ignore the rest.

      > Atheists do the opposite. They drop the "loving" part, focus only on the parts of the Bible that support their view, and refuse to worship this god. The scripture is meant to be read as a whole; a good Christian should study the whole thing.

      Umm, no. Atheists pick these horrendously bad parts to disprove the positive claim of a good and loving God. That's all.

      > To answer this question, Atheists are no better than some Christians at scripture interpretation.

      Except that we're not depositing a God. We're not claiming to know characteristics of this God. The comments we bring up are to directly counter the evidence provided by Christians.

      You have no idea what atheists think.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • GodPot

      I'm an atheist because I don't believe in Zeus.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • John

      Well obviously if you don't believe in the same god you are a evil immoral hate filled soul destroying person! DUH!

      June 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Free- "The original OT meaning was limited to fellow Israelites"

      Eh..not quite really. If one studies the Torah they will see many places where the Israelites were to treak Egyptians and other fairly. No where in the Torah does it say that the Israelites were #1 and everyone else a distant 2nd.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "We're not claiming to know characteristics of this God."

      That is wrong. If you didn't claim to know something then you wouldn't be writing now would you?
      Atheists do like to point out aspects of God that doesn't seem to work with the all loving concept of God. Of course, God being loving does not mean he is ONLY loving. That is a mistake on both Christians and atheists.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Lycidas
      Then why were Hebrew slaves indentured servants to be set free after a few years while foreigners were property to passed to ones children?
      "However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way." (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

      June 22, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Doc Vestibule- Nice research. While there was no "We're #1!" in the Torah, there was internal benefits for the Israelites. Just as the land had to stay within certain tribes, the actual ppl had to stay strong as well. If one did not have a way for Israelite slave/indentured servants to become free, you could have a significant population of the citizens that would be little more than 2nd class. By letting the be free of their debts there was a the possibility of keeping the Israelite population stronger.

      June 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Free

      Evan
      "Atheists do the opposite. They drop the "loving" part, focus only on the parts of the Bible that support their view, and refuse to worship this god."

      You are missing the essential meaning of atheism. It's not that we don't worship God because we think he isn't nice; we don't worship him because we don't think he's real. Don't take it personally. We don't think that any of the other gods are real either. So, don't get all hung up on the idea that we're just 'angry' at God and are refusing to worship him because of that.

      Even if God never harmed anyone in the Bible, freed the slaves, granted social equality and taught perfect morals without ever asking anything in return there would still be a section of the population who wouldn't believe him to be real because of the lack of evidence. As it happens, God in the Bible does have his loving side for humanity, as do the Greek gods and others, but he is also a jealous and murderous god, which is also standard behavior for the ancient deities. In short, God isn't at all really different from any of the other gods, which is why we challenge any claims that he is.

      So, basically, Christians have failed to demonstrate how their god is any more real, or any better than any of the thousands of other gods that people have generally dismissed as being myth.

      June 22, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  20. Angry Hillbilly

    Hopefully, most of those graphs don't hold true for the entire American population.

    June 22, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Lycidas

      I bet it's not too far off though.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Angry Hillbilly

      Yeah, you're probably right. As much as it pains me to think about such a large population disagreeing with Evolution and gay rights, it's probably pretty close.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Free

      They say they are from a survey of Evangelical leaders, and not even Evangelicals in general, many of whom may not be nearly as conservative as people positioning themselves as leaders within the movement. I can't imagine it would be easy for a trained minister who believes in evolution and is sympathetic to pro-choice and same-se.x marriage to get a position as an Evangelical pastor. It really seems to be part of the job description.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      Agree. It would be interesting to see a co'mparison of rates between other American groups, and the cohort surveyed,
      as well as among these groups and European groups, (as well as some other groups from the "global South) since we know the att'itudes differ greatly between Americans and Europeans on these subjects). I suppose it's outside the scope of the Pew Forum, since it does focus on American att'itudes, but great article Mr. Greene, and good job Pew Forum !

      June 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Good point Free. It stands to reason that most of the leaders in question would lean conservative. Though don't put down the evangelicals too much, I've known many that are quite liberal.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Angry Hillbilly

      Don't get me wrong, Free, I expected when I looked at the group that they surveyed that the numbers would be kind of skewed. I was just commenting that, outside of this group of people, i hope the numbers aren't mirrored.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Free

      Lycidas
      There are moderates and even liberals everywhere, just as there are conservatives and even 'radicals', yes? I wonder if the liberal voice within the evangelical world will get a larger say in the future, or will individuals simply leave for less conservative traditions?

      June 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
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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.