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. alex

    The Southern Baptist Convention takes a poll of randomly selected churches. How many of these churches are Baptist? How many pastors are in rural Texas vs. Chicago? What did the poll look like and was "I don't know" a valid response. I think the margin of error may be higher than they think.

    On that same note, who cares what pastors in rural America think about geology? Let's ask scientists what they think about marriage and happiness, then judge science based on their response.

    January 11, 2012 at 3:05 am |
    • SixDegrees

      The poll is very suspect. It sounds as though they called a bunch of southern Baptist churches, not "Protestant pastors".

      January 11, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • alex

      Agreed. Furthermore, since the SBC is biased, Baptist pastors would feel pressured to answer a certain way.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:13 am |
    • zoft2000

      The fact of the matter is hat this is a Christian country if you don't beleive in Religion, move to Russia, Cuba or China, I'm sure you will be very happy there. And please take your "intelligent" evolution theories with you.

      January 11, 2012 at 5:29 am |
  2. SixDegrees

    Just a note: the Southern Baptist Convention is NOT all Protestants. I'm not saying other Protestant denominations don't hold similar views, but whatever their views may be they aren't included in this poll.

    Maybe they should ask some Methodists. Methodists are Baptists who can read.

    January 11, 2012 at 3:00 am |
  3. Umesh

    That means only 30% of the pastors are educated. Remaining 70% might be literate but not educated!

    January 11, 2012 at 2:51 am |
  4. treetopflyer

    Moma always said "Stupid is as Stupid does"

    January 11, 2012 at 2:49 am |
  5. NJBob

    If these Protestant pastors are preaching what is so obviously false, shouldn't they be subject to Truth in Advertising laws? They should be required to post large signs in front of their their churches to warn the gullible public. And let's tax them and their churches too while we're at it.

    January 11, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  6. j

    This just in! 7 out of 10 pastors are self-serving, greedy, child-molesting morons!

    More News at 11!

    January 11, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  7. Tom Wittmann

    These pastors are responsible of the atheism of the half educated and some otherwise stupid scientist as Hawking saying the World was creates by ...GRAVITY (forgetting to tell who created the Gravity!!

    And who told these moronic pastors that the bible is literally God word. By the way, Genesis, accepting its symbolism, is incredibly accurate, as creation is described in the right sequence.
    And who wrote the original Old Testament?? Obviously the Hebrews (i.e. Jews). So why you could not find a Jew being creationist, and very few of their nearest offspings, the catholics and ortodox. No creationist there neither!!

    So, atheits think that the existence of these preachers proves that God does not exist, the truth being that he created by EVOLUTION a certain percentage of morons!!!

    January 11, 2012 at 2:41 am |
    • NJBob


      January 11, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • Relictus

      Tell us (we atheists) what we think. Go on. Tell us some more.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:48 am |
  8. jimjones11111

    The big difference between science and religion is that science is always trying to prove itself wrong; religion on the other hand is always trying to prove itself right. Which approach do you think will eventually lead to the truth?

    January 11, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • wisdom4u2

      Ummmm...both! Pretty much like insurance...their betting you're going to stay healthy and alive, and you're betting you'll get sick and die...so, yeah, both!!

      January 11, 2012 at 2:44 am |
  9. wisdom4u2

    Urine van der Sloot shows that evolution is real…look at him…he hasn’t evolved much…looks just like his ancestors…and has the same Paranthropus aethiopicus face.

    January 11, 2012 at 2:35 am |
  10. MarineDad

    For the past few years, I have been traveling to quite a few countries. In many countries, one would find a very religious person is equally a great believer in science. These people do not seem to have any problems in wearing different shoes as the situations merit.
    One ought to be able to be able to believe both in science and religion at the same time if necessary. It's not as if one has to give one up for the other.

    It's a sad indictment on our combined intellectualism that a good percentage of these pastors still believe that the earth is only 6000 years old
    GOD help us, and give us some more of that gray matter 🙂 🙂

    January 11, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • alex

      You bring up a good point. At one time in America and still in many countries today, pastors were encouraged to attend seminary. 3 to 7 years of full-time study and an internship were required in many cases. Now anyone with a powerful voice and the ability to quote scripture becomes a pastor. To make matters worse, many pastors actually look down upon a formal study of theology.

      Personally, I don't care if a pastor is ignorant of science. But being ignorant of theology and lacking an inability to reason is a crime.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:53 am |
  11. jimjones11111

    frightning!!! The dumb leading the dumber....

    January 11, 2012 at 2:31 am |
  12. PPM Administration

    The 12% must not be using the Bible

    January 11, 2012 at 2:20 am |
    • HellBent

      Yup, because no one who studies the bible believes in evolution. The Roman Catholic Church obviously doesn't.

      As an atheist, I find Christian infighting highly amusing. Thanks for the laugh.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:29 am |
  13. Johnnystop

    So... what if God invented evolution to take care of the birds, bees, monkey, human thing while he (she) was off attending to more important things?

    January 11, 2012 at 2:20 am |
    • Dr.K.

      Then he must not be omnipotent or omnipresent.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:31 am |
    • SixDegrees

      In a nutshell, that was the view during the Enlightenment, and remains the view of the Catholic Church and many other religions today, for the most part. The Baptists haven't caught up with that period in history, however.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:06 am |
    • HellBent


      That's not entirely so. The RCC didn't even accept evolution as a potential explanation until the 60s. Even now the church's stance is tenuous. And it makes a big whopping exception for humans, teaching that we all came from one man who's name was actually Adam and one woman who's name was actually Eve.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:10 am |
  14. John

    When I was a child in a sandbox I built hills and saw how they eroded when you poured water on them. Since then I've seen many mountains and rivers, and they were all playing out the same processes. Just look at the Grand Canyon. Or observe how the Hawaii Islands rise to the surface at the SE end and sink away to the NW, proving they develop as the Pacific tectonic plate drags NW over a fixed hot spot. And let us not even start with fossils, or the simple chemistry of nuclear decomposition. The truth is this planet is about 4.5 billion years old, and people who insist it is 6 thousand are by choice flat-out deranged.

    January 11, 2012 at 2:14 am |
    • Relictus

      They are willfully ignorant. =)

      January 11, 2012 at 2:38 am |
  15. Michael

    America – what a pathetic country of stupid religious idiots.

    January 11, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • Relictus

      I am an American atheist. We are not all back-woods inbreeders.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:40 am |
  16. steven

    Only in America do we still deny evolution. Again religion forces people to disregard almost the obvious. It is totally embarrassing. This really shows to the world how false their religion is .... like Catholics changing the list of sins on their own because they do not like it.

    January 11, 2012 at 2:06 am |
    • Dr.K.

      Not really, they still deny it in Turkey and Iran, too. As a matter of fact these are the only countries in the western world that we outrank in some measures of science education.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:10 am |
    • SixDegrees

      They have a toehold in Europe. Perhaps not surprisingly, creationists over there have hooked up with neo-Nazi and other "racial purity" groups to bolster one another's views. Both groups do well during economic downturns, and share several other attributes.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:09 am |
  17. Scott A

    Safe to say then that 7 out of 10 pastors would fail an IQ test that checks for moderate intelligence (around 100). Get with the times pastors. The Bible was written hundreds of years ago before people were educated – you don't have to follow outdated, unintelligible beliefs just because it's written in a book.

    January 11, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • steven

      Yep, back when religion said the earth was flat.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:10 am |
  18. Angela

    Not all "scientists say that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old." There are scientists who are also Young Earth Creationists. Get your facts straight.

    January 11, 2012 at 2:01 am |
    • gilk

      Uh...yes....they do. The ones that cannot be called scientists.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • Kevin

      That's true. Let's correct that then, shall we? "99.9999999999999% of scientists say the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old."

      January 11, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • HellBent

      Young Earth Creationists are not scientists. I could call myself a recording artist, but the label would not make it true.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • S

      Please. Go find me those reputable scientists you're talking about. I would love to introduce them to the rest of the world.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:35 am |
  19. dwech

    CNN, why is this story buried in the 'Belief Blog'? 7 of 10 pastors rejecting widely accepted evidence of evolution, and nearly half of them asserting the earth is only 6,000 years old should be front page news. Truly stunning how myopic religious leaders can be.

    January 11, 2012 at 2:00 am |
  20. Jesus Cristo

    The only proof they have is faith...

    January 11, 2012 at 1:56 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.