Not all that long ago, outright, young earth creationists (YEC) outnumbered those of us who rejected supernatural views of our history by five to one here in American. Today I thankful that, for the first time in American history, the YEC position is not the top answer to the question of human origins! This historic point was crossed just this May, and is not the only such moment from 2017.
If you had asked me decades ago if I’d live to see this day, I wouldn’t have seen it as a likely possibility. And before that, for nearly all of American history and for many centuries before that in Western countries, to even suggest that a sane person could doubt the literal reading of the creation story that this or that Bible would get you shocked looks at best (if not physical harm). And yet, here we are!
Like so many other similar areas, the pace of change in the past century, and especially in the past couple decades, has been unbelievable.
Next Year, and the year after that
One could look at the direction this has gone over the past three decades and predict that it will continue. In other words, this is nothing new – the graph at the top of this post shows that accepting evolution with no supernatural involvement has more than doubled since 1982. But an even better basis for thinking that this trend will continue is looking at the demographics shown in the same poll. Specifically, the highest level of creationism is found in those above the age of 65, and among those under 30, only 27% are YEC. These data can be seen in the graph below. Note that the age specific data is from a different poll (by Pew), which gives a lower overall YEC result – likely due to polling differences like the proportion of land lines vs. cell phones, etc.
Looking at the Gallup graph, I can’t help but wonder how people most often free themselves of the shackles of YEC.
For instance, I’m sure that some of them jump right from YEC to rejection of all supernatural in the our origins in one step, when they find the many outright lies and subtle deceptions which make up YEC. Some undoubtedly shift over many years, gradually going from YEC, to accepting some kind of theistic evolution, then slowly dropping their creationist belief alltogether. But how many of each type? For those millions of Americans in the “naturalistic” category, which story is more common? I think that with these data, it could be mostly either way, or an even share of each. I’ll let you know if I find anything that provides that information- and please let me know if you come across some first.
Traditional religion, of course, brings both good and bad aspects to the lives of it’s adherents. Many of those good things, such as community, shared spiritual experience, rites of passage, and more, are completely independent of superstitious and supernatural belief. As so many people, of all ages and in all areas of the country, flee a literal Bible and YECism, they will still have many of these very human needs. How many of them will work to build naturalistic religions of various kinds? Some will stay in Christianity, being silently Naturalistic Christians, or theistic evolution supporters, who see evolution and common descent as facts that tell us how their god made humans and the world. Others will strike out in other areas, maybe becoming Naturalistic Buddhists, or anything else (we are talking about millions of people, after all). Some will be the Naturalistic Pagans who will read these posts here and on other Naturalistic Pagan blog sites (such as NaturalPagans.com), and feel a little less alone. As Naturalistic Paganism and other naturalistic approaches to religion grow, I hope that they find fulfilling spiritualities that enhance their lives and build a better world for all.
Starstuff, Contemplating by Jon Cleland Host
We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.
Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997. He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature. He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University. Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see www.thegreatstory.org, and the blog at evolutionarytimes.org). Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality. He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.