A new Harris poll released this month shows that Americans apparently are losing their belief in miracles and gaining it in science. The recent poll showed that American belief in evolution had risen to 47% from its previous poll level of 42%, in 2005.
True, it’s not an overwhelming increase, and it’s still less than half the population, but it is an improvement. Belief in creationism dropped 3% during that time, to 36%. Good news, of course, but don’t break out the champagne yet. There’s other data and it’s not all so good.
At the same time more Americans are believing in the science of evolution, American belief in many religious teachings is falling. Belief in miracles, heaven and others has dropped since the last poll:
- 72% believe in miracles, down from 79 percent in 2005;
- 68% believe in heaven, down from 75%;
- 68% believe that Jesus is God or the Son of God, down from 72%;
- 65% believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, down from 70%;
- 64% believe in the survival of the soul after death, down from 69%;
- 58% believe in the devil and hell, down from 62%;
- 57% believe in the Virgin birth, down from 60%.
CNS News also tells us the poll shows:
- Absolute certainty that there is a God is down vs. 10 years ago (54% vs. 66% in 2003).
- Outside of specific religious samples, the groups most likely to be absolutely certain there is a God include blacks (70%), Republicans (65%), older Americans (62%), Baby Boomers (60%), Southerners (61%) and Midwesterners (58%), and those with a high school education or less (60%).
- There continues to be no consensus as to whether God is a man or a woman. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans (39%) think God is male, while only 1% of U.S. adults believe God is female. However, notable minorities believe God is neither male nor female (31%) or both male and female (10%).
- 19 percent of Americans describe themselves are “very” religious, with an additional four in ten (40%) describing themselves as “somewhat” religious (down from 49% in 2007). Nearly one-fourth of Americans (23%) identify themselves as “not at all” religious – a figure that has nearly doubled since 2007, when it was at 12%.
The Harris Poll has some not-so-good news to report, as well. According to the pollsters, more Americans believe in ghosts, reincarnation and UFOs than in 2005:
- Reincarnation: 25%, up 3%
- Ghosts 42%, up 1%
- UFOs 36%, up 1%
I’m not sure whether to blame this lapse in critical thinking on ‘reality” TV or the internet. Either way, it’s troubling.
Belief in witches is down to 5% to 25%, and belief in astrology remains unchanged at 29%. Belief in angels is down 6%, but still staggeringly high at 68%. Imaginary beings are losing followers, while pseudoscience still hangs in there. The good news, if one reads it thus, is that belief in the science of evolution is finally higher than the belief in witches, ghosts, UFOs, astrology, creationism and reincarnation. But not angels.