Two out of three
believe in Satan!?
from a Newsweek poll

November 4, 1995

Two out of three Americans believe in the existence of Satan with 85 percent of the Evangelical Protestants taking that position, a Newsweek magazine poll shows.

More than one out of three people polled, 37 percent, said they had been tempted by the devil while 61 percent of the evangelical Protestants said they had, according to the magazine, which will reach newsstands Monday.

Among the general population, 27 percent said they did not believe in Satan, while only 13 percent of the evangelical Protestants did not.

The poll, conducted July 27-28 by Princeton Research Associates, reached 752 people including 209 evangelical Protestants. The margin of error was four percentage points for the entire group and eight points for the evangelicals.

The poll asked whether certain things were caused by the devil:

The answers -- with the general public figures first and evangelical Protestants second -- ranged from crime (36 percent, 59 percent) and pornography (34 percent, 62 percent) to feminism (12 percent, 20 percent), famine in Africa (16 percent, 26 percent) and the homosexual rights movement (21 percent, 43 percent).

Graphic Rule

Nearly Half of Americans
Accept Biblical Creationist
Accounts over Evolution
by Conrad Goeringer
AANEWS from American Atheists

August 20, 1999

A new study being published this month by a leading political scientist shows that Americans have a significantly stronger belief in the idea of divine creation than Europeans or citizens of other advanced countries. University of Cincinnati professor George Bishop conducted an extensive cross-national study of attitudes, and initially presented his findings at the May conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. His complete report will be published in the new issue of Public Perspective, a journal of the Roper Center. He noted, "Nearly a third of college graduates in recent Gallup polls still believe in the biblical account of creation," and that about 45 percent believe that God created human beings "pretty much in (their) present form at one time or another within the last 10,000."

"That's a lot of people," Bishop told ABC News. "That's not like it's some small minority position." Other findings are equally provocative:

Bishop compared this statistical profile with attitudes in other countries and found some interesting results. Whereas the percentage of those believing in Biblical literalism has fluctuated between 32 percent and 40 percent in the United States, only seven percent in Great Britain subscribe to that view. Americans also show higher level of belief in other religious tenets such as the existence of hell, the devil, heaven and an afterlife.

Americans also fared poorly in their knowledge about the science behind evolutionary theory. Respondents in Norway, Russia, German and the Netherlands all showed a significantly lower rate of literalist belief than those in the U.S., and Americans lagged behind 21 other national groups in understanding the concepts behind Darwinian evolutionary theory. Bishop also found that those most likely to accept a scientific evolutionary explanation were white Americans, male, college graduates, Jews, political liberals and political independents, and young adults under 30. Conversely, his research showed that those most predisposed to believing in Biblical literalist accounts were "women, older Americans, the less well-educated Southerners, African Americans and fundamentalist Protestants," according to the Cincinnati Post. In addition, "A sizable negative relationship exists between knowing the scientific 'fact' of evolution and beliefs in God."

Dr. Bishop said that he was "astounded" by the results of his investigation. "This is a fertile soil for such controversies to continue to thrive," he said, referring to the ongoing culture war issue of whether or not to permit the teaching of evolution as fact in public schools, or introduce so-called "creationist" accounts based on the Old Testament Book of Genesis. "It just doesn't go away."

Bishop proposed a number of possible explanations for why Americans display this marked predisposition to accept Christian religious accounts of the origin of life over their European counterparts. One is the access that different religions, including Protestant Fundamentalist groups, have in the American "belief bazaar."

"Think of it as a market," Bishop to the Post. "You have many different denominations competing for customers. Because of that competition, there's more active recruiting, proselytizing and other forms of bringing people into their particular fold. That's one notion why this society is more religious than most developed nations."

He also noted that "The scientific world view has thus far failed to complete Darwin's revolution in the land of 'One Nation Under God'...We don't stack up well as a nation. Religious belief tends to be inversely correlated with what most scientists would say is simple fact."

The Post also noted: "Another explanation for the majority belief in creationism, Bishop said, may be that it creates a 'spiral of silence,' a climate where people with agnostic or atheistic beliefs are reluctant to state their views."

Behind the Ignorance

Why are some groups more vulnerable to believing in Biblical accounts than accepting scientific explanations?

Critics suggest that differences in education and social expectations may marginalize women, steering them away from careers in hard sciences, and that ethnic minorities suffer due to lack of equal spending for schools and other services. Regional differences may emerge due to varying public budgets for education; poor rural areas, for instance, have less money to spend on classrooms, science labs and good texts than their upscale, industrial area counterparts. And certain religious groups accept Biblical literalism as an important cornerstone of their faith. While Catholics accept a theistic evolution at work in the universe, many Protestant fundamentalist and evangelical sects preach a literal interpretation of the Bible.

But such explanations may mask another reason for the fact that a near-majority of Americans rejects scientific evolution in favor a Bible fairy tale. Organizations which promote a creationist agenda have honed their tactics and enjoyed surprising success in promoting their view. One strategy involves presenting evolution as "just another theory," along with the claim that "other points of view," specifically Christian creationism, ought to be made available to public school students. And the creationist message is often couched in scientific terminology, and concentrates on areas which its supporters claim expose deficiencies in Darwinian evolution. Ken Hamm of the Answers in Genesis group told the Post, "I believe that when people are taught science correctly, they see that evolution is just a belief and not a scientific fact."

Creationists have also become active in electing sympathizers to local and state educational agencies. In Kansas last week, for example, the state Board of Education voted to permit the teaching of creationism in local public schools.

This has prompted the American Geophysical Union to prepare a "call to arms" to member groups, encouraging them to become more involved in local and state education issues. Fred Spilhaus, executive director of the AGU released a statement last week warning, "Once again, those who value science and support the teaching of evolution but were too busy to participate in local politics lost, and science education will suffer as a result, as will science itself."

Spilhaus added, "Scientists would be well-advised to run for schools boards or, at the very least, to actively support well-informed candidates. If scientists want to see good science taught in the schools, they can't just participate as teachers. They have to get out and get into the policy making aspect of it."

Graphic Rule

Let 'Em Fail!

Darwin's Theory Creates Dilemma
for Some Students

September 20, 1999

South Glens Falls, New York (AP) -- Some New York students are refusing to answer questions about the theory of evolution on state tests, because of their religious beliefs.

But their protest is putting a monkey wrench in their grades.

Every year, some students at South Glens Falls High School, north of Albany, refuse to answer questions about evolution on the state Regents tests. They say the theory violates the beliefs of their faith.

Teachers say students are free to believe what they want, but they're tested on the curriculum. And failing to answer hurts their grades.

One minister advises students to write the answers that are in the textbook -- but tell the teacher they don't really believe it.

Graphic Rule

Americans Think
Financial Situation
Reflects God's Regard
by Chuck Shepherd
sources: New Haven Register, Bloomberg Business News

January 29, 1995

Results of a Louis Harris poll, released in January, included the finding that about 70 percent of Americans believe their financial situation is "at least somewhat" a reflection of "God's regard for them."

People with lower incomes are more likely to believe that.

Graphic Rule