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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. BL

    Cheer up dudes. Even though you are completely immersed in your fantasy world, we're assured we're all dying soon in a horrible fate when the nasty Mr. J returns like Rambo to hand out his vindictive justice. That should bring a smile or two.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • The End Is Near . . . Again!

      Will Rambo-Jesus have his rocket launcher of divine love with him? And his M60 of heavenly mercy too, with its endless supply of bullets? Will he be all ripply-muscled like he got carried away with the steroids again, and all glisteny with sweat as he curls his lip and howls as he spatters the unrighteous?

      What fun for Christians! Rambo-Jesus will let them have the blood-and-gore show they have always wanted!

      June 22, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  2. Edwardo

    @JYB – No your attacks are more sinister. You go to the polls and oppress those who don't follow your religion. I'm sure I'm real low on your totem pole. Me being a 'mo and an atheist, has got to just blow your 2,000 year old mindset!!

    June 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  3. phil

    Organized religions are the basis for most of the unrust in the world.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • xtianbydesign

      Unrust? Cleaning old metal one soul at a time.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  4. CRAIG

    Reality, True christianlty is not flawed, people are.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  5. Literal interpretation?

    If they believe that the bible should be read literally, then why are they not stoning children for disobedience and divorcees for adultery? Good thing we keep separation of church and state cause these people would be running our country like the taliban!! This articles shows that they are not accepting of most "others" despite the fact that they demand others to treat them as such. Hypocrites!

    June 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • DanB

      Because of the New Testament maybe? It would help if you actually new something about Christian beliefs before you criticize them.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • JJ

      Called the new coventant thru Christ Jesus. If you are going to be critical of another belief system – understand it first.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • JPopNC

      See...that's where you're wrong. That maybe a "literal interpretation" of the Old Testament, but Jesus came to earth to abolish the old law, so those type of punishments are no longer applicable.

      When the Pharisees were preparing to stone Mary, Jesus stepped in to say, "Who among you are without sin let them be the first to cast their stones", so stoning is no longer a relevant punishment.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Skeptical Analysis

      Looks like you two are the ones who should be reading your bible. Matthew 5:17 – Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      Yes, OP, please read the Bible before trying to ask questions so that you can sound competant about what you are talking about. Belief is belief. You don't have to believe, but you should know about what the topic you want to debate on before speaking up so as not to look ignorant to those of us who actually have read the Bible and believe in it as truth.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Skeptical Analysis

      Seriously, have you people read your bible or do you just believe the apologetic doctrine that your preachers spew to try to make your religion seem more peaceful? Isn't it embarrasing when atheists continue to school you on your own scripture?

      June 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      @Skeptical Analysis....Your statement is somewhat true, but you can't just look at one verse and say that it proves a point. You need more to back it up. Jesus also gave us 2 commandments to follow in the New Testament. It's all about love. How can you kill your child and call it love. How can you be adulterous and call that love? Love is the essence of it all. Love captures all 10 of the commandments given to Moses on the mountain.

      Jesus came to serve and to fulfill what was already written in all of the scriptures. To prove He was the Messiah. That is mostly what He is talking about there in Matthew 5:17.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • J Y B

      I think when asked this question, they say they interpret the Bible literally meaning they believe that Adam, Eve, Noah, Moses, etc. existed and that their stories are real. Many of them do believe in a 6 day creation, others a 6 stage creation. They believe Christ's miracles really happened. I suppose they should be more specific, but maybe the poll takers gave them true/false questions.

      June 22, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  6. Okx

    "But the respondents' perceptions may not reflect reality, said Michael Cromartie" ............. They believe in a god... Of course their perceptions don't reflect reality!!

    June 22, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  7. Jean Sartre

    Each and every human being is born with unique DNA; it is up to each and every one of us to grow, think, learn, and finally attempt to realize our own unique potential as a human being.

    I really fail to see how following any person (Jesus, Hitler) or any book (bible, koran) blindly and without critical thought is going to accomplish our unique self-realization... ONE size simply does NOT fit ALL, although it may make you comfortable and complacent in your profound if not monolithic ignorance…

    I will always prefer to be ME as opposed to a carbon copy of some other person…

    June 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Michael

      Excellent comment!

      June 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  8. DougieT

    Well, I'll be damned.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  9. steve

    I have often wondered how or why christianity would adopt as a symbol of their religion an ancient torture device that tens of thousands of people were brutally slaughtered on?

    June 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • bro

      because their savior died on it.......

      June 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      The funny thing is that historically the cross Jesus could have died on was an "X" just as easy as the "T" cross which is accepted as the type used. Other interesting facts is that the "cross" was already in use as a religious symbot for another religions previous to the Christ. The "fish" was Jesus's first symbol used by X-tians to identify themselves I remember correctly.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Jean Sartre

      because their savior died on it.......

      Well, that's just GREAT!

      Perhaps we can all start wearing crowns with thorns, and nails too; maybe we can find other instruments of torture to worship and wear as well...

      June 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • TheyNotHim

      @bro ... prove it, with evidence. "Evidence" may include: eyewitness accounts, official government accounts, in fact ANY accounts of the event from a Primary source aka "Somebody who was there" or ANY archeological evidence that the man actually lived...NOT somebody who was told about the event decades or hundreds of years later aka "the bible says"...

      If you can prove to me that Jesus actually existed, using the criteria listed above, then I will kneel right now and be saved...

      GO!

      June 22, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • steve

      What about all of the others? They don't count? To me it is a morbid symbol, yet so many see it as good.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Jaberg123

      bill hicks had the same question
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxsGyljd6B0&w=640&h=360]

      June 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  10. james

    I'm optimistic that adults believing in fairytales are becoming less influential. I never did understand why believers fret so much over others not believing. Then again, all carefully engineered organizations need a method of recruiting new members in order for them to survive.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • CRAIG

      Actually Followers of Christ are commanded by Christ to go into the world and preach the gospel, Jesus wants no one to perish eternally.That is why followers of Christ try and let people know that Jesus is the only way the only truth and only eternal life.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      @Craig do you believe that Jesus wanted the churches to collect all the money they do? Jesus was the one who felt that business being done at or thorugh his place of worship was a sin. Also the bible states that a rich many may be saved but the chances are the same as getting a camel through the eye of a needle. All this "get out their and spread the word thing" you claim is a front for business and that is the trught. ummmmm Do you have 30 pcs of silver?....just askin?

      June 22, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  11. NONBIBLETHUMPER

    The vast majority of Bibethumpers support the wealthy over the poor,who they vilify.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      So true, I was speaking with a bible thumper last night who also claims the "Tea Party" as his political party......coincidence? I think not.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  12. Randall12

    Just finished reading Perceptional Threshold a few weeks ago. It put an entire different perspective on Christianity, frighting if true.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  13. NONBIBLETHUMPER

    The one good aspect of a Biblethumper is that you can commit all the sins you want and just"pray it away". Rob a bank,shoot someone and just pray i taway. All is forgiven.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      And in the case of political bible thumpers you can pick and choose daily which sins to expose and which ones to "forgive" to help with your campaign.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  14. LinCA

    From the article: "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.".

    If we're pissing off the evangelicals more than Muslims, we must be doing something right.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  15. RKW

    Why so down? If you are right as you all like to think you are, you will die and go to heaven and live happily ever after.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  16. paul

    Jesus: Many are called,few be chosen.I did not say it Jesus did.Check it out in John chapter 1,BELIEVERS will be called the children of God,that leaves a whole lot of people here out of the loop.Its your choice,but EVERY knee shall bow,EVERY tongue shall confess that Christ is Lord!

    June 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!! thanks I needed that.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • SDFrankie

      Wow. I never thought of it that way. Believe or burn. Simple. Ok, so where do I go to join the Jesus Club? Fire really scares me. I'm willing to believe anything to avoid fire. I mean anything. I have no shame when it comes to avoiding fire.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • I_get _it

      "EVERY knee shall bow,EVERY tongue shall confess that Christ is Lord!"

      This sounds more like something that your egomaniacal "Satan" character would demand.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • TheyNotHim

      Prove it, with evidence. "Evidence" may include: eyewitness accounts, official government accounts, in fact ANY accounts of the event from a Primary source aka "Somebody who was there" or ANY archeological evidence that the man actually lived...NOT somebody who was told about the event decades or hundreds of years later aka "the bible says"...

      If you can prove to me that Jesus actually existed, using the criteria listed above, then I will kneel right now and be saved...

      GO!

      June 22, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • EZRA

      "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"

      And there lies the problem – Evangelicals are more concerned about losing "influence" – power- over their fellow Americans than about doing good. What they really want is control and to have everyone follow their rules – they are no better than th Taliban and exactly why they are losing influence. Why don't they lead by example – care about the poor, the jobless, the sinners instead of villifying gays, fomenting war and opposing science.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  17. NONATHEIST

    I do not know which is more extreme among these commenters... The height of arrogance, or the depth of stupidity. Lots of people seem to hate a lot while accusing others of hating... so there's a high quotient of hypocrisy, too. Don't bother responding – I won't be in this haven of hatred any longer... Just thought I'd share an opinion before I go.

    June 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  18. Reality

    Why the pessimism?

    Tis simple, it is caused by the flawed history and theology of Christianity.

    For a quick summary for posting on every church door:

    THERE WAS AND NEVER WILL BE ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS I.E. NO EASTER, NO CHRISTIANITY !!!!

    A longer summary:

    1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment.

    2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

    earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

    For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

    3. Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:

    Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

    Nex topic!!!

    June 22, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • paul

      your reality,is based on stupidity

      June 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Sean

      @Paul

      You believe in fairytales. You have no place calling someone else stupid.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • JJ

      Horrible arguments and filled with gross fallacies.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Michael

      Excellent piece – well researched and well laid out. Thank you.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • JPopNC

      That is your perfect case of blasphemy.

      June 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  19. BriSoFla

    The bible was written by people who thought the world was flat and not an accurate source of factual information.

    June 22, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      Here here, and lets not forget Earthquakes were a sign of gods wrath, a comet was a portent (predictor of events to come)usually evil, the sun and the planets traveled around the Earth the known world at that time did not include North or South America and Australia the North or the South pole. Yes we have come a long way since then, the christians would keep us in those times if they could.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Mr. Bones

      I can almost promise you that in some pockets of humanity in the United States, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who would insist that the world IS flat because of some obscure piece of scripture, and that the apparent roundness of it is either an illusion created by Satan (like the dinosaur bones he hid all over the place–always the master planner, him) or there's a magic trick that happens when you hit the edge that makes you teleport to the opposite edge, giving the illusion of a sphere.

      What's more, most of them would be willing to get in a physical altercation with you over it.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • JPopNC

      "The bible was written by people who thought the world was flat".

      Now where in the world did you get that? It doesn't say that anywhere in the Bible. In fact, the Bible does a good job in explaining how the sun, moon, stars, and earth all work in harmony. It talks about how the moon influences the oceans and it mentions in Isaiah "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth". Why would they mention a "circle" if they thought it was flat?

      The Bible also references the earth floats in space, in Job 26:7 where it states that God “hangs the earth on nothing"

      So, there's plenty of evidence of how the universe is designed. Interestingly, it was the early secular scientists that promoted the earth was flat...not Christians and definitely not the Bible.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  20. HamsterDancer

    @scoobers,
    That was some of the best comments here. We need more tolerance on all sides and trying to understand everyone's viewpoint rather than seeing how mean a comment you can throw at those you disagree with.

    June 22, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • scoobers

      Thanks. Every now and then there are some rational comments on these boards lol 🙂

      June 22, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      I believe in trying to understand people with a different view, if we can all establish a base line of evidence and fact to discuss the various topics. I am sorry to hurt feelings but with out REAL facts to support Biblical data I cannot understand the "faith" side of it much at all.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • QS

      It boils down to this: religious people feel obligated to "save" others, which usually means imposing their beliefs on others through legislation – I am more than willing to leave religious people alone to believe as they will, they however do not reciprocate that willingness.

      For that, I will always stand up to the religious....while still remaining civil at least....but the people who insist that we "see their point of view" don't seem to understand that most of the comments that seem over the top from non-believers are simply from people who have tried to see their point of view, and have discovered that their point of view is not something worth understanding.

      But I do agree that we can have a disagreeable conversation about it without devolving into name calling and childishness.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • TheyNotHim

      I will not tolerate a group of people that make it their life's work to deprive my fellow citizen's of their basic human rights using a fairy tale book to justify it...they are as bad as the na-zis were!

      June 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      @SurelyUjest....I see where you're coming from. Some people can believe something without having to see it visibly, and some people need a visible, tangible thing to make the faith and belief possible real. What good is a story to people who never experienced what happened in it and don't know if it's real? That is why the apostles converted many people by signs and wonders. The miracles they performed opened up nonbeliever's eyes to the truth so that they could start believing. These signs are still around today if you actively look for them. You may think that they are all magic tricks (some are by false teachers), but some people are actually out there today healing in the name of Jesus and casting out demons and evil spirits.

      June 22, 2011 at 5:05 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.