By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
Last Updated: 12:34am GMT 01/12/2007
More Americans believe in the existence of hell and the devil than Darwin’s theory of evolution, according to a nationwide poll.
Nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of US residents polled said they believed in a literal hell and the devil, 60 per cent said they believed in the virgin birth.
Only 42 per cent of those surveyed, however, said they believed in Darwin’s theory of evolution, or “natural selection”. The results reflect the deep divide in American society between those who believe in Darwin’s theory and those who favour creationism or intelligent design, the idea that life is too complex to have evolved by chance and must be the work of a divine being. Some 39 per cent of respondents said they believed in creationism.
While the scientific community dismisses the theory of intelligent design, proponents have fought for it to be taught alongside evolution in schools.
Broken down by religion, the survey found that only 16 per cent of born-again Christians (or evangelicals) compared to 43 per cent of Catholics and 30 per cent of Protestants believed in Darwin’s theory.
Meanwhile, 60 per cent of born-again Christians, but only 43 per cent of Catholics, believed in creationism.
Overall, the poll reflects the centrality of faith to American life, politics and culture, with 82 per cent saying they believed in God.
Three quarters agreed there is a heaven while 72 per cent believed Jesus is God or the Son of God and 79 per cent believed in miracles.
The question of faith is proving a key issue in campaigning for next year’s presidential election. For example, in a new advert, Mick Huckabee, the Republican presidential hopeful and Baptist minister, declares: “Faith doesn’t just influence me, it really defines me.”
The poll, by market researchers Harris, involved 2,455 US adults from across the country selected to reflect the national population in terms of age, sex, race, education and household income.
It also found that significant minorities of Americas believe in ghosts (41 per cent), UFOs (35 per cent), witches (31 per cent), astrology (29 per cent) and reincarnation (21 per cent).
Born-again Christians were more likely to believe in witches (37 per cent) while Catholics were found more likely to believe in astrology and re-incarnation