The numbers on pastors, evolution, and the age of the earth

It is not pretty. According to a poll of pastors released a few days ago, the vast majority of them question evolution and then some:

(BaptistPress) — Pastors overwhelmingly believe that God did not use evolution to create humans and think Adam and Eve were literal people, according to a survey by LifeWay Research. The survey of 1,000 American Protestant pastors, released Jan. 9, also found that ministers are almost evenly split on whether the earth is thousands of years old.

I imagine the numbers for Catholics would be considerably better, I hope anyway, where better is defined as closer to reality. But it’s still mind-boggling: the men — and I guess a few women — who hold the trust of entire congregations overwhelmingly think evolution is false and many think the earth and presumably the universe are only a few thousand years old. Scary and sobering indeed.


  1. unbound says

    Not pretty, but not really surprising either. I have an uncle who is a pastor (different denomination) and is pretty delusional about how the world works. Although I have never confronted him regarding evolution in particular, I have little doubt that he would be firmly in the 64%.

  2. articulett says

    They have a vested interest in their ignorance. They believe (and get paid to convince others) that believing the biblical account of creation is the key to salvation. They also believe that their “loving” god will torture them forever if they “bite from the tree of knowledge”.

    It takes honesty and intelligence to overcome these memes– clearly these are not attributes most Protestant pastors are strong on.

  3. cp3o says

    Took me a few seconds to see what the problem is – after all, like the 64%, I strongly disagree that god used evolution to create people.

    I think the need to believe in the creation myth(s) is based as follows.

    No Garden of Eden = no Adam & Eve
    No Adam & Eve = no forbidden fruit
    No forbidden fruit = no talking snake
    No talking snake = no temptation
    No temptation = no fall
    No fall = no original sin
    No original sin = no need for salvation
    No need for salvation = no crucifixion
    No crucifixion = no redemption
    No redemption = no christianity
    No christianity = no church
    No church = no pastors
    No pastors = SH*T – I’ll have to get a proper job!

  4. Jim says

    I’m curious to find the demographics of the Protestant pastors they surveyed as those numbers seem awfully low if some prominent Protestant denominations were surveyed in a demographically appropriate way.

  5. plutosdad says

    What is truly frightening is that the younger a pastor surveyed is, the more likely he is to think the earth is 6000 years old. So instead of getting better, things are getting worse.

    Though, maybe that’s good, it means smarter people don’t want to go into the ministry. Or it could mean something bad: that kids (maybe just in the South) are less educated today than they were before. It depends how much these pastors reflect society

  6. Jim says

    Stephen, it’s just odd because in one of the larger denominations, the United Methodist Church, which supports the teaching of evolution as being in accordance with the Bible, has a membership in excess of 10 million and parishioners regularly report as being 80%+ favorable toward evolution.

    The data also shows that the larger megachurches tend more toward an anti-evolution view – I suspect that this explains somewhat the date for younger pastors, who tend to migrate to larger churches after seminary.

  7. drlake says

    That’s such a badly phrased poll question you can’t draw any conclusions from it. As someone above noted, most of us would strong disagree with the statement, not because we don’t believe in evolution but because we don’t believe in “God” using evolution in that way. For us, it would be because we don’t believe “God” exists, but it is quite possible (even likely) that at least some of those protestant pastors disagree with the statement because they don’t think “God” had anything to do with the evolution of mankind. Depends on how conservative the sample was.

  8. Makoto says

    Jim, it’s interesting – my parents are strong Methodists, and while my father is somewhat okay with evolution, my mother denies it on a regular basis. Their pastor(s) are mostly anti-evolution over in Oklahoma, as were the ones I heard in California. A good UMC friend is super duper anti-evolution (hates even hearing the word), as is her church (South Carolina).

    Maybe I just was unfortunate in meeting so many of the 20% against evolution from within the UMC, but it sure seemed like the official line hadn’t made it down to the churches yet as of this year.

  9. Jim says

    I can only speak to interactions with the UMC in the northeast – then again, the data in this poll shows that’s where the support for evolution is strongest, and antagonism is strongest in the south. Again, without access to the actual data, for either the poll (the one mentioned here or the UMC poll), it’s hard to say.


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