Belief in God, Heaven and Miracles Down; Belief in Evolution Up

The percentage of Americans who believe in God, heaven and miracles decreased in the last several years, according to poll results released Monday, while the percentage of people who believe in Darwin's theory of evolution is on the rise.

A new Harris Poll found that nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of American adults believe in God, though that number is down from 2005, 2007 and 2009, when 82 percent believed in Him. Sixty-eight percent of people now say they are absolutely or somewhat certain God exists, though that number has decreased by 11 percentage points since 2003.

Since 2005, belief in heaven has decreased from 75 percent to 68 percent and belief in miracles has dipped from 79 percent to 72 percent. Since 2009 the belief that Jesus is God or the Son of God also decreased (from 72 percent to 68 percent), as did belief in the resurrection (from 70 percent to 65 percent).

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Belief in the theory of evolution, on the other hand, has risen from 42 percent to 47 percent in the last eight years. Since 2003, the percentage of adults who say there is no God has increased from nine percent to 16 percent, and uncertainty as to whether there is a God has risen from 12 percent to 16 percent.

Twenty-nine percent of Americans, including 60 percent of those who self-identify as being very religious and 56 percent of born-again Christians, believe God controls what happens on the Earth. Another 37 percent, including 52 percent of Catholics, say God only observes what happens on the planet.

The survey, in which 2,250 American adults participated, also found that the percentage of people who view all or most of the Old Testament (49 percent) as the "Word of God" has decreased by six percentage points since 2008. The same is true for the New Testament, which 48 percent of Americans say they view as God's Word.

Scott Dawson, founder of the Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association, says the poll results are alarming, but not surprising. There was a time when the Christian scriptures permeated the American culture, he says, but for the first time in U.S. history there is an "unseeded generation" in whom the Word of God has not been "planted."

What can Christians do to help turn the tide? They can pray, he says, but believers also need to live their beliefs and make an effort to engage with the culture around them.

"Jesus taught us to be insulated from this world. Well, Christians in America, we've taken it to the nth degree and we've isolated ourselves from the world," said Dawson.

Dawson also says Christians need to let people know they are "pro-Christ" instead of just speaking out concerning things they oppose.

"If I'm pro-Christ...I am not throwing rocks, I am throwing ropes to this world," he said.

Will Galkin of Galkin Evangelistic Ministries told CP he isn't surprised by the statistics either, though he is saddened by them and hopes the American church will "wake up." The spiritual state of the U.S. may be worse than the statistics indicate, he says, because even those who say they believe in God may not actually believe in "the God of the Bible."

Galkin says one of the ways Christians can positively influence others in America is by living out the gospel.

"So the Christian needs to not just have a gospel that gets them out of hell, but it needs to be a gospel that changes their life, so that when the irreligious sees a Christian, they say, 'Yes, I believe it's real,'" he said.

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