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

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

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Science

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soundoff (6,504 Responses)
  1. Raj

    Religion can be scientific. The one religion that comes closer to science in terms of age of earth is Hinduism (one of the oldest religions). It uses "kalpa" (4+ billion years) as the age of earth.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      And in all that time no hindu has ever found the need to bathe

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

      Say as you please Alfred. Words people use talk a lot about their culture.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Yeah, I still don't understand how the Hindus were able to come up with these numbers. The people were more likely to believe in a God, Gods that were more "other" or eternal I guess.

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

      well, take an average Christian and tell him that you do not believe in his god.. he would be up in heckles about why you are wrong and how HIS god will smite him and burn him in hell for eternity. He would then yell how you are a dumb moron and then decry any of your good deeds as satans work.

      take an average Hindu and tell him that you do not believe in his god. He would say, "bah, whatever.. you don't want to believe, then don't. if you want to believe do." He wouldn't care much

      That is the major reason it survived so many invasions from so many cultures/religions over so long a time (definitely more than 6000 years, I would say 🙂 ) ..

      January 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  2. Realist

    The biblical supporters responding in this thread would be hilarious if not both so sad and incredibly scary.

    Just think, you might be following a David Koresh, Kim Jong Il, Joseph Kony, or Charles Manson, all of whom might have started a religion as "solid" as any of the 4 or 5 major ones in existence today, except they were at least 1400 years too late.

    Another thought for the 6000 year people – you're wrong. Time was measured in lunar months prior to about 2000 BC, and was lunisolar between 2000BC and roughly 1500 AD, depending upon where you were. That means ages prior to 2000 BC were not solar years, but most likely lunar anums, meaning a 900 "year" old person was actually 75 years old, which would be an entirely differently interpretation of the age of the historical stories in the bible. Just one of many inconsistencies, errors, and contradictions in the various religious "works".

    January 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Wolffe

      Mr. Realist... some food for thought for you;

      IF the bible is TRUE (and I believe it is) than ALL of scripture is inspired by God (right from the very first verse) as the order of creation is actually quite opposite to that of evolution (or BILLIONS of years), so either creation OR evolution is correct, but NOT BOTH.

      IF the bible is correct, then Jesus himself (who rose from the dead) stated that God created man and woman FROM THE BEGINNING (Matthew 19:4). IF Jesus was wrong (which He's NOT) than He told a lie which makes Him a (lier) sinner just like you and me which makes Him UNFIT for the perfect sinless sacrifice for the atonement (payment) of everyone's sins.

      IF Jesus did not exist OR did not rise from the dead, than ALL of Christianity is in vain and completely useless. I would be very careful on analyzing the facts of Jesus' birth, life, death and RESURRECTION because your eternity is at stake.

      Are you really willing to bet your ENTIRE eternity on prepositional ideology to live a lifestyle of sinning against the God who gave you a precious life?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  3. God

    All religions of the Earth are False.

    All mankind are my children. Live in PEACE.


    January 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Why did you create suffering and death? Just wondering.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
  4. prov401

    I find the poll hard to believe. I am a Protestant pastor; I believe in evolution. I have been a pastor for over 30 years; in all that time I have never met a pastor who did not believe in evolution - and I'd estimate that I've met more than 500 pastors in those years. I'd bet this is a survey of 1000 Southern Baptist pastors, and that it does not include pastors from other Protestant denominations.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • HurrDurr

      it certainly would appear to be quite torqued toward creationists . .

      January 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • MacMaven

      If what you say is true, then you are certainly the next evolution of Christianity, that needs to take place if it is to remain a viable faith. Then again, almost half of pastors in this survey think that the Earth is 6K years old. The ignorance is so ridiculous, I almost cannot fathom a belief like that.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • rc roeder

      well it is obvious we need mre like you and less like them

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

      You've never met a pastor who didn't believe in evolution? I'm not a pastor, never attended church yet I'm pretty sure I can name quite a few who dont believe it.

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

      I'm very glad to hear you "believe" in evolution but that sounds as strange as saying you "believe" in gravity. One "accepts" the mountains of 150+ years of gathered facts that support the theory of evolution. One "believes" in fairies, gods, leprachauns, etc.

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

      I certainly hope you're right. I fear for the future of our nation if there is truly that much willful rejection of reality. There is a time and place for faith and belief in personal and philosophical matters using biblical stories (or other similarly purposed religious teachings) as a guide for life's challenges. Christianity has no contradictions with evolution and only subjective incongruences with evolutionary theory. However, it's a dangerous precedent to use faith as a shield of ignorance against knowledge. Keep the religion out of science and the science out of religion. I see no difference between the creationists and the people of the Flat Earth Society.

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

      that gravity exists and evolution has occurred are facts, plain and simple reality. The theory of gravity and the theory of evolution are the best scientific explanations as to why gravity exists and how the evolutionary process occurred. This stupid poll might as well ask if you prefer to live reality or perpetual delusion. To say you "believe in evolution" is a nonsensical statement. I agree with JT, you "accept the theory of evolution".

      January 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • LT

      Agreed, definitely a sampling of predominately conservative protestants. There are plenty of Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc who accept evolution and dispute a literal reading of Genesis.

      January 12, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  5. God, save us from Religion!!

    Or more accurately, God save us from ignorant ministers who haven't figured out that God gave us a brain and expects us to use it.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  6. kenny

    It is shameful and idiotic that these so called "religious leaders" preach to their flock COMPETE BS.... is it any wonder our country is full of idiotic morons that would elect leaders that follow the beliefs of these ignorant idiots... it should be a crime to deny science, give them a taste of what they've inflicted on humanity for 2k years, scientific blasphemy should be punished by torture and then death for the next 2k years... then we'll be even.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  7. Darwin was right

    For 300 years, nearly 100% of Southern Protestant Clergy believed and preached that BLACK PEOPLE were 1) Mentally and morally inferior 2) suited only for slavery 3) happy with their enslaved condition. So it's not surprising that ignorant preachers continue their bigoted ways, in this case bigoted against those pointy-headed, skeptical, annoying scientists who keep contradicting the Bible with their blasphemous scientific discoveries.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • God, save us from Religion!!

      I think they still believe it.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • rc roeder

      i agree

      January 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  8. JakeAZ

    3 in 10..that ain't bad. would've been unheard of 100 years ago. progress comes slowly.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  9. HurrDurr

    I have a friend who suffers from almost constant, and really gassy, explosive diarrhea . .

    Where is your GOD NOW????!!!?!?!?!?!?!

    January 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Clarify

      Has he/she consulted a dietician and changed their eating habits:)

      January 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Copenhagun


      January 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  10. kle

    The sad part is that these idiots pass this crap down to future generations, it almost a form of mental abuse to the kids. They are brainwashed from an early age and the cycle of delusion and stupidity continues...

    January 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • rc roeder

      but this is seen in all form of religion, none are free of the ones who want to dominate over others.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  11. Jedediah

    Anyone who believes in evolution is a heathen and their soul should burn in hades. If God wanted us to evolve, we wouldn't need to have faith because it would just be subject to eloving itself. God knows what he's doing.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Happy Jack

      Ohhh listen to a story of a man named Jed, a poor mountineer, barely kept his family fed,...

      January 10, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      Oh, I think faith is very much subject to evolution, arguably a product of it.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Jedediah

      God will strike you dead for that one, sinner.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • clearfog

      If God knew what he was doing, then why did he get His a$$ kicked by a talking snake in a magical fruit tree?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • JMA

      Jed, ahh; what?? You're scaring your fellow Christians..

      January 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Vim

      Nothing says 'love' like burning eternally for having the wrong thought.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • rc roeder

      uh huh...warming hands in hades and toasting mashmellows

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

      Faith in religions is probably part of evolution, but religions have evolved as well. Nothing seems to exist outside of evolution. I guess you could say that even stars evolve into other things. . .such as human beings. Of course I'm not saying anything about sub-atomic particles since I don't know enough about that. ..but everything else seems to be subject to evolution.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Wizard

      Peace Jedadiah. Consider the parable of the talents. We are called to advance our selves and not to rest on faith alone.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • fintastic

      Burn baby! burn!!! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

      January 11, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  12. neil

    stupifying, reminds me of the republican 'trickle down theory', if you repeat it enough. other idiots will believe it,

    January 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  13. clearfog

    I had a general belief that things were bad, but I had no idea how bad. I always thought that the anti-science fundamentalists were a small but vocal minority. Now I am told that they represent a solid majority. I do not know what can be done about this. You cannot argue with people who are irrational. The only thing to do is give it time and do everything in the meantime to prevent them from gaining any more political power than they already have.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • ScottL

      Only a majority of pastors of protestant affiliation. Do NOT let the headline mislead you.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • clearfog

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

      January 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      Keep in mind that the 'poll' was done by the Southern Baptists. They insist they are the only Really© True™ Christians® so only their sect would have been surveyed.

      Keep hope because the Clergy Letter Project has been official endorsed the United Methodist Church, the Southwestern Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Southeast Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church. So, not all Christian Clergy are nitwits.


      January 11, 2012 at 3:44 am |
  14. Bill

    If you must believe in a god, why can't there be a god and also evolution? How thick can these people be?

    January 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Bill P

      Bill: Your question is reasonable. Starting with the premise that God created all, yes the entirety of the universe, unfathomable to us, He must then be endowed with the following:

      1) All power (infinite for all practical purposes)

      2) All knowledge (effectively infinite)

      3) Perfect (flawless or believers might say Holy and incapable of being sinful or evil, and being in the presence of sin)

      Within the context of these presumptions, I can conceive why He created man. Indeed, the account in the Garden of Eden demonstrates that He, following the creation of billions of other angelic beings, created man, in His image, for fellowship. To test and demonstrate the value of that fellowship or relationship, He gave man the free will to choose to love Him as well as obey Him or not. The rest is “history”. Just as Adam and Eve were cast from the Garden of Eden for their “sin”, all of man is also separated from God because of that sin, originating from Adam but inherent in us all. To bridge that gap, the divide between man and his Maker, God provided Jesus to pay for those sins and allow restoration of fellowship with Him for all eternity. That is “creation” in a nutshell.

      Going back to the three “endowments”, why would God mess around with evolving man? Further, evolvement is the basis for an argument of not being accountable for imperfection (sin or evil); thus, God would be remiss in denying Heaven to anyone who is human, but who claims that they “hadn’t quite made it up the evolutionary cycle.”

      Evolution, in the context of a Creator of the Universe is just not logical. It would suggest that He was simply looking for something to do, like He was bored. Why not cut to the chase and create man, as the Bible states, in His image? If evolved, when is the evolved being “in His image”? When is accountability? If not accountability, why all of this mess on the earth? A test? A test for what?

      On the other hand, the infinitely powerful One who possesses all knowledge, the One who is Holy and perfect would not waste His time evolving man because He would already know the answer of what evolvement entails. I cannot see a need for entertainment. I cannot see the value of an experiment. I cannot see the purpose of a “grand zoo”. His infinite knowledge, power, and perfection cannot lead down the purposeless, random, and chaotic path of evolution. The singular creation of man, as he is even today, fits more logically into the concept and belief of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-perfect being responsible for the Creation of the Universe and ourselves.

      Evolution compels one to get off of the fencepost and decide between a Creator or simply not believe God at all. Mixing the two is confusion.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:48 am |
  15. ScottL

    Such a misleading headline. This only deals with Protestant pastors, not all across the board Christianity. Most Catholic priests side with Evolution, and they even teach it in catholic schools over creationism.

    This is horrible spin meant to push some kind of agenda, and I absolutely detest it, CNN.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      I like it.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  16. sanespeak

    So based on none to little facts, is religion a theory? Am I a born-again Christian theorist?

    January 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    The grace of God is found in prayer
    The love of God is found in prayer
    The salvation of God is found in Prayer
    The person of God is found in prayer
    Pray without ceasing in 2012
    Prayer changes things

    January 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • go4it

      give it a rest

      January 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • neil

      Praying Is Politically Correct Schizophrenia.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • just helping out

      Rest in Prayer

      January 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • fintastic

      Please give me one example (proof) of prayer changing something.

      January 11, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  18. Evil Hollywood Liberal

    I guess that what you 'believe' now trumps what science knows to be true. Wonderful.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • just sayin

      God gave science to mankind.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Tasselhoff

      I do not believe that Christianity and Science have to be incompatible.

      I will admit I'm very surprised that so many Protestant pastors completely discard evolution, and that so many are young-age Creationists.

      I'm a fan of Intelligent Design, myself – which is a long way down that road toward a destination where good science and thoughtful Christianity can agree.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  19. Brian Watkins

    This just in: seven out of ten U.S. Protestant pastors believe in an imaginary wizard in the sky.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Alex Trebeck

      Brain Watkins wins big by sneaking the phrase 'wizard in the sky' into a blog comment. For originality what has Brian won Don Pardo tell us.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Don Pardo

      Well Alex Brain Watkins has won the coveted ass hole of the blogs award, crafted in 24k plastic and suitable for Brian to kiss at his leisure. Next contestant please.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  20. chris

    I don't understand how people who are not educated in science can automatically dismiss something that has been proven time after time.......

    January 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Clarify

      There are many creationist scientists with PhD's who disagree with evolution.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:11 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.