A friend of mine (CarlM) and I have a long-running debate regarding how logical or illogical the average religious person is in the United States.
I believe that the level of religious belief held by most Americans is harmful to human civilization–even in the so-called “moderate” form practiced in the United States. I believe that once a society as a whole rejects logic and evidence and embraces a certain level of fantasy, that breakdown in reason inevitably becomes part of public policy, which leads to superstition, hatred, and even a desire to harm those who don’t share those beliefs.
His position seems to be that I’m injecting far too much hyperbole into the discussion, and that it’s not nearly as bad as I make it out to be. He seems to believe that what I describe is in fact bad, but that very few people have these extreme views, and that most religious people are quite logical. I’ll let him add to this opener as he sees fit.
So what I’d like to do, using actual data, is to try and illustrate that my “hyperbole” is, unfortunately, closer to the truth than his. I’ll be using poll data from Pew and Gallup. The format will simply be a list of findings with some commentary afterwards:
- The Majority of Republicans Doubt the Theory of Evolution | Gallup, 2007
- 40%-50% of the public accepts a biblical creationist account of the origins of life | Pew, 2005
- Only 26% of Americans believe in Natural Selection | Pew, 2005
- In the year 2009, 200 years after Darwin’s birth, only 39% believe in the theory of evolution, and 36% have no opinion either way | Gallup, 2009
- 79% of those with a high school education or less either don’t believe in evolution or have no opinion either way | Gallup, 2009
- 27% of those with postgraduate degrees in the United States either don’t believe in evolution or don’t have an opinion either way | Gallup, 2009
- Among those who seldom or never go to church, 45% either don’t believe in evolution or have no opinion either way | Gallup, 2009
- Of those who go nearly weekly or monthly, 70% either don’t believe in evolution or have no opinion either way | Gallup, 2009
- And finally, in the year 2009, in the United States of America, only 39% believe in evolution | Gallup, 2009
Here’s Gallup’s implications summary:
As Darwin is being lauded as one of the most important scientists in history on the 200th anniversary of his birth (on Feb. 12, 1809), it is perhaps dismaying to scientists who study and respect his work to see that well less than half of Americans today say they believe in the theory of evolution, and that just 55% can associate the man with his theory.
So, Carl, I ask you to reconsider your belief that religion in the United States is harmless. It is not. Beliefs lead to action, and the action in this case is going to be the removal of logical discourse on a wide range of topics due to religious influence, e.g. teaching creationism alongside evolution.
Few things are more dangerous than preventing logical discourse, and handguns aren’t one of them. ::