Views on Evolution by Members of Different Religious Groups in the US

In 2008, the Pew Research Forum published the findings of a survey they did examining the percentage of the US population who agree that human evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth by members of various religious groups.

Percentage of the US population who agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth.

Percentage of the US population who agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth.

The results are fascinating.

But first, here’s a fun exercise: find your religious faith tradition on the bottom of the chart, and look at the traditions to the left and right of you. This allows you to put into perspective your view on the scientific fact of human evolution.

The chart is powerful because it allows US citizens to see where they are on the relative scale of beliefs.

You will note that there are three natural statistical clusters:

To the left, there are the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and ‘unaffiliated’ (which could mean anything from atheist to agnostic to “spiritual” to “aliens did it”).

Then in the center, there are Catholics, Orthodox, Mainline Protestants (right at the 50% mark), Muslims, and Black Protestants.

Finally, at the far right, there are the Evangelicals, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The far right category doesn’t surprise me: these three religious groups have led the way in denying science outright for some time now.

Interestingly, the Muslim category was farther left than I expected, probably due to the fact that the media usually portrays Muslims as more fundamentalist than the national average. (Again, Muslims in the US are less likely to be fundamentalist, and therefore less likely to be seen on TV. Rational folks don’t usually end up on TV; just watch any news program or reality show.)

Other than that, there are few surprises. Historically, the most densely populated Catholic parts of the country are in the northeast, where the average demographic is more liberal/progressive and better educated than the national average. Black Protestants and Evangelicals demographically appear in the south, where things lean more conservative and people are less educated than the national average. (Even FoxBusiness says so.) This sociological reality may partially explain the results.

Again, the chart is powerful because it allows US citizens of particular faith traditions to see where they are (and to whom they are intellectually closest on the issue of evolution) on the relative scale of beliefs.

So where are you?

The Difference between Persecution and Being Corrected

Help Help I'm Being Repressed

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” – Porte, Joel (ed.), Emerson in His Journals (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), 206 (entry for Nov. 8, 1838).

I’ve said in the past (here and here and here) that “there is a difference between persecution and the loss of privileged status”.

Emerson’s quote echoes the same sentiment, and it applies to everything from conservative Evangelicals bemoaning the enforcement of the separation of church and state, to Muslim fundamentalists bemoaning new secular democracies, to pseudoarchaeologists whining when it is pointed out to them that their claims are completely bogus and factually unfounded.

Put simply:

There is a difference between persecution and the loss of privileged status.
There is a difference between persecution and being corrected of an error.
There is a difference between persecution and being wrong.

Christian "oppression"

U.S. religious breakdown

Demonstrating that a claim is false and suggesting an ulterior motive for the debunked claim is not a “personal attack”. It is the scientific method.

Just because you didn’t get what you want doesn’t mean that you are “persecuted”. It means you can’t have everything.

Just because facts and evidence demonstrated your claim to be untrue doesn’t mean that you are “persecuted”. It just means you were wrong.

Just because you got outvoted by a majority in a democratic election does not mean you are “persecuted”. It means you got outvoted.

Just because you can no longer rely on a previously enjoyed advantage does not mean that you are “persecuted”. It simply means that existing laws are now being enforced and you can no longer pretend they don’t apply to you because you are part of a previously privileged group.

The above situations are not examples of “persecution”. They are simply examples of people who used to get their way, who no longer get their way. Claiming “persecution” in these situations is merely an attempt to invoke victim status against those who previously were victimized.

While persecution (especially religious and ethnic persecution) is very real (like this and this and this and this), most in the American majority have never experienced real persecution. Childhood playground teasing aside, at most they’ve likely only experienced the loss of a previously held advantage.

But that doesn’t mean that the formerly privileged won’t pretend to be victims when they stop getting their way.

"Religious Freedom"

why fundamentalist evangelical republican politicians scare me (and should scare you too)

Georgia Congressman Paul Broun

Georgia Congressman Paul Broun, standing in front of a wall of mounted animal heads, tells the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet that he does not believe in “evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory”, which he defines as “lies straight from the pit of Hell”. Broun is a Republican representative on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

This is the US Congressman from Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, Dr. Paul Broun. He is a member of the Republican Party and the Tea Party Caucus.

He recently gave a speech to the “Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet” (yes, THAT exists, I kid you not) on September 27, 2012, in Hartwell, Georgia. (This explains the WALL OF MOUNTED ANIMAL HEADS that serves as a backdrop for the Congressman.)

Watch a clip of the speech:

Here is the transcript of what he said:

God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.

And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.

Now, I’ve come to accept that there are some people on this earth that will NEVER accept science, no matter how logical, rational, or intellectually compelling it is because they are not interested in facts; they are interested in maintaining the beliefs and worldview compiled thousands of years ago by desert nomads. But this is not the problem.

Every American has every right to be religious. And every American has every right to make religious speech (just not in places where others are compelled to listen to it or participate in it, like public schools). And every American has the right, if they so choose, to deny reality. You can argue that aliens created human technology, Santa Claus, whatever – you have that right.

Every American, if they so choose, can choose to deny basic science, facts, and data. That too is OK…foolish, but within one’s constitutional rights. Likewise, every American has the right to elect as their representative someone reflects their skewed, ancient, and defunct worldview – a representative who also denies facts and information that science provides. Therefore, even though such behavior is utterly foolish IMHO, Americans have the right to believe what they want, deny reality if they want, and elect someone as their representative who reflects the denial of science, facts, and reality. It’s foolish, but they have these rights as Americans. This too is not the problem.

The real problem, and what frustrates me to no end, is that the Republican Party would place someone like Paul Broun, who obviously has a disdain for science and the factual reality of the world around us, to THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, SPACE, AND TECHNOLOGY! Forget the fact that he’s been married four times. Forget the fact that he’s a Conservative Evangelical. These aren’t the problem. The problem is that, based upon his fundamentalist religious convictions, he DENIES the fundamental tenets of science. Yet, despite this, the Republicans named him the CHAIR of the SCIENCE SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS AND OVERSIGHT!

The Republicans bring this upon themselves.

While I’m sure the Medical College of Georgia is embarrassed to have Dr. Broun represent them as an alum who rejects the “lies” of basic medical disciplines like “embryology” and other tenets of basic science, they can’t help what he chooses to believe and deny today. But the Republicans can! The Republicans do themselves a major disservice when they promulgate the perception – one rightly deserved – that they are anti-science, and that they are anti-science precisely because they are conservative Evangelicals.

Do you see the problem? The Republicans don’t have to promote a scientifically ignorant congressman to the Committee on Science. Yet, they do. Thus, the Republicans completely deserve to continue to be chided as the party of anti-intellectualism and anti-science, because they continue to elevate people who see no possible compatibility between their faith and the reality of the worldview that basic science has provided. For fundamentalist Evangelical Republicans, faith and science are an either-or choice. And they choose faith. And that’s OK. But that the GOP elevates them and puts them in places of authority over budgets and curriculum for science and technology, this is the problem.

I shake my head.

using religion for political gain: a response to rick perry

There are few things that piss me off more than those who use religion for political gain. I especially despise those who use faith in one interpretation of a religious belief as a wedge to marginalize a believer of a different interpretation. And, I particularly hate (yes, a strong word, but i HATES it) those who use religion to discriminate against others who do not share their particular religious belief, and to suppress their civil rights.

This is why everything that Rick Perry is bugs me. And now, his most recent political ad is nothing other than a political wedge ad simultaneously targeting Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith (about which he is usually (and rightly) silent, as it should not be a political issue in a secular nation where matters of church and state are to be separate) and Newt Gingrich (whose Baptist turned Catholic faith also receives little discussion from Gingrich). So, Rick Perry is out to capture the Evangelical Christian vote, and in doing so has produced one of the most ridiculous ads in history:

Now, in response to this ad, I must choose one of two routes: I can rail against folks who simply make stuff up. For instance, can kids really not pray in school, or can they not do so in an organized, school-sponsored fashion, as if they were in a private Christian school? And, are students really not allowed to celebrate Christmas, or are they taught to acknowledge that maybe not all kids in a public school profess the same Christian faith their parents have taught them to profess so proudly in class? (UPDATE: For rules about praying in public schools, read Dr. Paul Flesher’s article on the Religion Today blog entitled, “It’s OK to pray in Your School.” – see comments)

In his anti-gay political ad touting his religious faith, Rick Perry sports a jacket quite similar to the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

In his anti-gay political ad touting his religious faith, Rick Perry sports a jacket quite similar to the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

The other route of criticism would chastise Rick Perry for being upset that gays are not openly discriminated against in the military. Apparently, the ever-faithful Rick Perry believes that some Americans, who happen to believe differently than Rick Perry, should be disqualified from offering their lives in service to this nation precisely because they differ in religious belief from Rick Perry. (UPDATE: And is it coincidence that the jacket worn by Perry subconsciously matches the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain? HT: Al Schlaf – see comments)

I shake my head.

However, methinks I shall ultimately choose to fault Rick Perry for making things up, like falsely claiming that a president who doesn’t pander to the Evangelical right is somehow engaged in a ‘war on religion.’ Because that is precisely how you use religion as a weapon in a political campaign: you claim that anyone who does not believe precisely the same interpretation of Christianity as you do is engaged in a ‘war on religion.’ In doing so, Mr. Perry makes himself the Christian equivalent of the leader of an Islamic state, who believes the laws of their religion’s holy book should be the law of the land. Rick Perry is a sharia Christian (if such thing can be said to exist).

So, Dear Mr. Perry, this is why your numbers are tanking, and this is why people think you’re not qualified to be President (or speak the English language for that matter). You will never be President because you use your faith as a political wedge against your opponents, as a tool to discriminate against others, and as a weapon against those who don’t agree with you.

So, with a tip of my hat to Emory University Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible, Dr. Jacob Wright, for pointing me to this video, I offer you the perfect response to Rick Perry’s most recent exploitation of religion. This video by Rabbi Jason Miller makes the point, makes you think, and makes you laugh. Enjoy!

there really is a ‘council on biblical manhood and womanhood’

This morning, I came across something I did not know existed, and I initially thought was a joke. But alas, this incredible discovery is real (although, imho, it is still a joke).

Lo and behold, there exists (and I’m not making this up), a Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. They even have a logo.

I kid you not – A Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood!

This is not an Onion article, nor is it satire. It’s a real organization. Their self-description (I kid you not – this is in the very first paragraph on their ‘About Us‘ page) reads:

In 1987, a group of pastors and scholars assembled to address their concerns over the influence of feminism not only in our culture but also in evangelical churches. Because of the widespread compromise of biblical understanding of manhood and womanhood and its tragic effects on the home and the church, these men and women established The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. (underlines mine)

Seriously! They formed their organization to “address their concerns over the influence of feminism not only in our culture but also in evangelical churches!” And they did so in nineteen eighty-seven! Not nineteen fifty-seven, not eighteen eighty-seven, nineteen eighty-seven!

They go on to say that they stand in “opposition to the growing movement of feminist egalitarianism.” And they make no apologies: they are firmly against the equality of men and women! And it gets better. This group has:

articulated what is now known as the “complementarian position” which affirms that men and women are equal in the image of God, but maintain complementary differences in role and function. In the home, men lovingly are to lead their wives and family as women intelligently are to submit to the leadership of their husbands. In the church, while men and women share equally in the blessings of salvation, some governing and teaching roles are restricted to men. (emphasis, bold, red, quotes, and implied outrage all mine)

The group regularly rails against (surprise, surprise) same-sex marriage (in one article, the legalization of same-sex marriage in Iowa is said to be worse than a 500-year flood causing damage to the homes and farms of thousands of people), homosexuality, and feminism.

Here are pictures of those serving in leadership roles on their Board of Directors. (Should I be shocked that everyone but the secretary is a white male?) And here are the council members. (Again, I don’t know whether to be more aghast at the fact that everyone is white, or that the five women serving on the board all have ‘homemaker’ or ‘Pastor’s wife’ listed first as primary occupation, followed only then by ‘author’ or ‘consultant.’ I certainly don’t see the men listing ‘Loving Husband’ or ‘Father’ before their titles of ‘Founder and Chairman,’ ‘President,’ or ‘Executive Director’ in the members’ descriptions. Is it also telling that two of the women don’t even have pictures?)

The group’s latest job, it appears, is to criticize the new revision of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible (the first revision to the NIV in 25 years) because it includes “gender-neutral” language. The CBMW’s review of the NIV is here.

Sigh.

Here’s an observation: if this group had the word “Islamic” in it, and all of the members were citing the Qur’an and the women pictured were in burqas or veils, I’m guessing the members of this same CBMW group would condemn it as Sharia Law fundamentalism suppressing the rights of women. But somehow, because it’s a Christian organization and they’re citing the Bible, this group has no problem suppressing the roles of women, and citing divine authority in doing so.

The use of religion to suppress women is wrong regardless of the religion used to do so. This – THIS! – is precisely why non-Christians hate fundamentalist Christians: because they use scripture to keep women down, when all Jesus ever wanted to do was lift them up.

I shake my head…

update on bruce waltke’s departure from reformed theological seminary

Bruce Waltkethe society of biblical literature’s website has posted a letter from dr. bruce waltke explaining his departure from reformed theological seminary in oviedo, fl. scott jaschik of inside higher ed ran a story last week that i blogged here.

in the letter, waltke apologizes to rts president robert (ric) c. cannada, jr. for ‘unwittingly involving’ them in a discussion about the issue of evolution and creation in genesis 1-3. why dr. waltke would want to exclude a seminary from a discussion about genesis 1-3 is beyond me, but i’m sure he has his reasons.

dr. waltke goes on to say in the letter that it was, in fact, he who resigned from rts, but did not elaborate on the circumstances, although waltke did acknowledge that he has received letters from many condemning rts president cannada for his action. dr. waltke goes on to state that he finds, ‘no fault with the rts administration; in fact, i think they did the right thing.’ (i discuss in a comment on my former post how many confessional schools get around having to ‘fire’ professors who don’t say what the school wants by not offering tenure to full-time faculty.)

dr. waltke then goes on to rattle off a list of things he would have edited about the video of his lecture on issues of evolution and creation that was posted on the biologos foundation’s website. these include:

  • altering the title to say why the church should accept creation by process of evolution (instead of must)

ok, fine.

  • deleting his title as a professor at rts since he was ‘speaking as an individual’

‘speaking as an individual’ makes no difference. each and every thing one says ‘as a professor’ is also said ‘as an individual.’ likewise, each thing a scholar says ‘as an individual’ reflects upon his or her university. i recall paul’s attempt at delineating between what he says and what the lord commands in 1 corinthians 7. methinks it’s safe to say that the early church always saw paul as a spokesperson for the lord, and included that which paul said ‘as an individual’ as authoritative as well.

and, may i ask, would ‘speaking as an individual’ have made a difference? would the rts administration have said, ‘he said the church should accept evolution??  oh, but he said it as an individual and not as an rts professor, despite the fact he works for us?  oh, ok then, that’s ok.’ i think not.

  • clarifying that he defines evolution as ‘theistic’ evolution as opposed to ‘naturalistic’ evolution.

i again must ask, is there a difference? if evolution is occurring (which it is) and we can’t prove or disprove the existence of god (which we can’t), what’s the difference? evolution is evolution. natural selection is natural selection. gravity is gravity. they all exist and take place whether one believes in them or not, whether one believes in god or not, and whether one believes god is responsible for them or not. what is at issue is the acceptance or denial of a six-day creation (literal or otherwise). i am guessing that many confessional institutions that place on their website a confession including language stating that the bible is “verbally inspired by almighty god and therefore without error” is not going to accept any explanation of creation as a process of evolution whatsoever, whether it be theistic, naturalistic, or otherwise.

  • surrounding himself with earlier advocates of theistic evolution

granted, this may have helped soften the impact. however, is that what dr. waltke wanted? to soften the impact of his message? i am not sure that waltke’s surrounding himself with ‘a cloud of theistic evolutionary witnesses’ would have appeased rts.

in all, i can understand dr. waltke’s desire to spare rts any further embarrassment. from what i am told, dr. waltke is a kind and congenial man. i certainly understand the notion of walking away and not burning bridges, despite the fact one has fundamental disagreements with what is being taught at a religious school. it is appropriate at times simply to walk away and speak kindly of one’s former school in a professional manner, even if it means not stating how one really feels.

that said, part of me wishes dr. waltke wouldn’t have let rts off the hook so easily. again, there may be underlying factors (financial or otherwise) that caused both parties to part ways amicably and speak favorably of one another. but once again we are left with yet another example of  an evangelical seminary teaching fundamentalist interpretations of the bible, where, when a faculty member dares speak against the confession (despite the fact that all evidence says that he is correct), said faculty member ends up conveniently ‘resigning.’ rts comes off once again as the bully winner, where those who dare speak against what they’ve preordained to be the truth will be (as they say in my hometown) ‘disappeared.’

still, it is my hope that dr. waltke finds another job at a place (perhaps knox?) with far less dogmatic views, where critical scholarship is valued and promoted, and where dr. waltke can continue his career. hiring dr. waltke will be a benefit for any school that wants to demonstrate its relevance to the modern world.

religion profesor bruce waltke dismissed from evangelical seminary for accepting evolution

Dr. Bruce K. Waltke

Dr. Bruce K. Waltke was dismissed from Reformed Theological Seminary for not adhering to biblical creation as the origin of humanity.

this is sad.

scott jaschik of inside higher ed ran a story today about harvard trained religion profesor, bruce k. waltke, who was recentely dismissed form his position at reformed theological seminary in oviedo, fl. interestingly, it was a video of dr. waltke posted on the biologos foundation‘s website that prompted his dismissal. and what heinous crime was dr. waltke filmed committing? a sex scandal? public drunkenness? a financial scandal? no. the video showed waltke doing what he does best: lecturing. to be precise, dr. waltke was lecturing about creation and evolution. specifically, waltke not only endorsed evolution, but said that evangelical christianity could be facing a crisis if it does not come to accept science, and specifically evolution, as a viable explanation for the existence of humanity. but apparently, certain school officials didn’t like what the highly respected professor was saying. and amazingly, the school’s officials, who were apparently policing the content of another organization’s website, decided that what waltke said was worthy of dismissal. (thus, it is not only students that must beware of university policing of facebook photos in an effort to discipline students for underage drinking, but apparently senior faculty must now also be cautious of expressing academic opinions that are not congruent with a school’s religious standards committee. i shake my head.)

of course, dr. waltke is absolutely correct. we evolved. the earth was not created in six days 6000 years ago. in fact, the bible’s redactors couldn’t even decide which of the two creation stories (gen 1-2:3 and gen 2:4b-25) to include, so it canonized both stories. this is freshman level biblical studies material. but because waltke teaches at a ‘confessional’ school, his academic opinions are subject to censure by the very white and very male school administrators, who may or may not have advanced degrees in science or biblical studies. (unlike the rest of the practical theology faculty, chancellor and ceo dr. robert “ric” c. cannada, jr. does not list his academic pedigree or a link to his c.v.)

in fact, the school is so tied to its understanding of the biblical text as ‘inerrant’ that it places a full confessional statement on its website, including this nugget:

All Scripture is self-attesting and, being truth, requires the human mind wholeheartedly to subject itself in all its activities to the authority of Scripture complete as the Word of God, standing written in the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible, all therein being verbally inspired by Almighty God and therefore without error.

the university has defended the dismissal with a very weak response. according to inside higher ed:

Michael Milton, president of the seminary’s Charlotte campus and interim president of its Orlando campus, where Waltke taught, confirmed that the scholar had lost his job over the video…

Milton said that the seminary allows “views to vary” about creation, describing the faculty members there as having “an eight-lane highway” on which to explore various routes to understanding. Giving an example, he said that some faculty members believe that the Hebrew word yom (day) should be seen in Genesis as a literal 24-hour day. Others believe that yom may be providing “a framework” for some period of time longer than a day. Both of those views, and various others, are allowed, Milton said.

so essentially, you can interpret the creation stories in genesis any way you’d like, as long as it involves god creating and doesn’t involve science or evolution. i am reminded of henry ford’s famous claim regarding his model t cars: ‘any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.’ essentially, at reformed theological seminary you can interpret creation any way you’d like, so long as it’s creation.

the article continues:

But while Milton insisted that this provides for “a diversity” of views, he acknowledged that others are not permitted. Darwinian views, and any suggestion that humans didn’t arrive on earth directly from being created by God (as opposed to having evolved from other forms of life), are not allowed, he said, and faculty members know this.

Asked if this limits academic freedom, Milton said: “We are a confessional seminary. I’m a professor myself, but I do not have a freedom that would go past the boundaries of the confession.

perhaps the most disgusting (or at least stomach turning) part of the article came in the school’s attempt at conciliation:

Given Waltke’s role and reputation, Milton said that his resignation wasn’t accepted on the spot. But after prayer on the question, Milton said, officials accepted the resignation.

you see, we didn’t really want to fire him, but after we prayed about it, we felt it best. essentially, god wanted it this way. this actually makes me angry, and i don’t get angry. let me just state for the record: when those in authority attempt to defer responsibility by claiming that they ‘prayed about it’ or claim that their decision is ‘god’s will,’ they betray their cowardice and their lack of leadership. if you’re going to fire someone for petty, sectarian, doctrinal reasons, fire him, and tell him so. tell him why you’re firing him. do not fire someone and then feign sincerity while claiming the decision is god’s responsibility and ‘god’s will’!!!!

in the end, waltke is correct. until christians wrest the faith away from evangelical fundamentalists and the power brokers at christian colleges and seminaries, christianity will continue to appear like a backwards faith that is completely incongruent with modern society. the sooner christians can come to an educated understanding of the biblical texts – not simply the recitation of memory verses and confessional creeds, but the true understanding of the text, its context, and its interpretation in the light of critical study – the better off the faith will be. the more the likes of glenn beck are looked to as the champions and representatives of the christian faith, the more the  church will hemorrhage parishioners. academics and biblical scholars must stand up. we must stop talking only to ourselves and must begin addressing the public directly via blogs, online lectures, and other digital media. for the sooner the public is disabused of the notion that in order to be a real christian, you must be an evangelical fundamentalist, the sooner they will demand that the schools they choose not teach nonsense, which is exactly what is going on at reformed theological seminary: nonsense.

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