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Signs of Hope

I recently read through the results of a survey conducted in the US by Harris Interactive which measures the American public’s level of belief in different areas, mainly related to religion and other paranormal subjects. The thing that I saw as a sign of hope was the unexpectedly high number who believed Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Of course, if people had any sort of reasonable education and a little bit of interest in knowing the real truth the percentage belief in evolution should be close to 100%. But in the US of course, it isn’t!

The percentage belief in evolution was actually 47% and another 22% weren’t sure, which means less than a third of the population don’t believe the theory. The great news was that 40% believed in creationism and that was the first time I had seen that number (in the US) lower than the number for evolution. That is surely a sign of hope! Still, those questions might be open to some interpretation and maybe certain types of god-directed evolution might be compatible with certain types of creationism so there is some uncertainty there. A lot depends on the exact definition of the terms.

So at 47% evolution got a higher rating than: ghosts (44%), creationism (40%), UFOs (36%), witches (31%), astrology (31%) and reincarnation (24%). That’s great really, but do almost one third of Americans really believe in witches? I mean, what century is this?

So that’s the good news but what about the bad news? What silly things did a greater percentage of people believe in than the 47% who believed evolution?

God was at the top at 80%, followed by miracles (75%), heaven (73%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (71%), angels (71%), the resurrection of Jesus Christ (70%), survival of the soul after death (68%), Hell (62%), the virgin birth (61%), and the Devil (59%).

All of these imply a buy-in to Christian mythology, of course. But there are a few oddities there too. Why would 73% believe in heaven but only 68% believe in survival of the soul? What’s the point of heaven if no souls survive to go there? Of course, Christian mythology has never made any sense so belief in it shouldn’t be expected to make any sense either!

And again there is room for doubt here. Does “god” refer to the Christian god or a god in general? I presume that since more people believed in god than other aspects of Christianity that it was a more generic god, or is this just another indication that people don’t really think through their beliefs very much?

Maybe the publicity atheism gained last year through the efforts of people like Richard Dawkins is having an effect on people. In the past I have debated with several people on-line who have never even considered the possibility that atheism or evolution is true. Maybe just the fact that the issue has become so public has given them enough reason to dare to believe in anything outside the pro-Christian propaganda which constantly permeates the culture of America. Yes, there are signs of hope indeed!

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