Most British people still believe in God the Creator, but why?

Another post relevant to Darwin’s bicentenary …

The Christian think tank Theos has carried out a survey of public opinion in Britain on creation and evolution. Thanks to Doug Chaplin for the link to Andrew Brown of the Guardian’s article about this. The results are extraordinary, considering that this is not a survey of Christians, but of the full spectrum of the population of the highly secularised UK. Here are the questions and some of the answers (extracted from the results, averaged over age groups and regions):

Q1. Young Earth Creationism is the idea that God created the world sometime in the last 10,000 years. In your opinion is Young Earth Creationism:

Definitely true: 11% Probably true: 21%.

Q2. Theistic evolution is the idea that evolution is the means that God used for the creation of all living things on earth. In your opinion is Theistic evolution:

Definitely true: 12% Probably true: 32%.

Q3. Atheistic evolution is the idea that evolution makes belief in God unnecessary and absurd. In your opinion is Atheistic evolution:

Definitely true: 13% Probably true: 21%.

Q4. Intelligent Design is the idea that evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things, so the intervention of a designer is needed at key stages. In your opinion is Intelligent Design:

Definitely true: 14% Probably true: 37%.

These results raise several questions, not least that quite a lot of people must have said that two contradictory positions are definitely or probably true. The survey must have found many disciples of Alice’s White Queen, who practice believing impossible things before breakfast. Indeed the questions themselves raise questions, about the definitions used, as the British Humanist Association has rightly pointed out, but the research is still valid as long as the wording of the questions is kept in mind.

So, even in this highly secular country, the two most popular of these four positions explicitly involve the activity of a creator or designer, in other words of God or a god. The atheistic position comes in third place. More than half the population accepts the Intelligent Design position. This is perhaps good news for Christians, that despite the collapse of organised churchgoing in the UK there is still a strong residual belief in God. According to the detailed figures, this belief does not seem to tail off among younger respondents.

As for Young Earth Creationism, although this is the least popular of the four positions, it is only a little behind atheistic evolution, with nearly a third of the population considering it definitely or probably true. This is far more than the total adherents of any kind of religion which would teach this position. This may reflect in part widespread ignorance of anything to do with science, although only 8% admitted to “Don’t know” on this question. So Andrew Brown is surely right in his suggestion that this is a matter of “Science vs superstition, not science vs religion”. As Doug points out:

This has some echoes of Chesterton: when people stop believing in God they will believe in anything.

Personally I have serious issues with Intelligent Design at least as presented here, and also with Young Earth Creationism. But I would have answered “Definitely true” to this question about theistic evolution.

2 thoughts on “Most British people still believe in God the Creator, but why?

  1. Pingback: The Gospel is not incompatible with theistic evolution - Gentle Wisdom

  2. It will be interesting to see what results come out from this month’s UK census, which has an optional question on religion. In 2001 71.7% of people in England and Wales stated their religion as Christian, whereas 3.0% stated Muslim, 14.8% called themselves non-religious and 7.7% gave no answer (data from here). I would expect to see this year some decline in the number calling themselves Christian, and perhaps a significant increase in the proportion of non-religious people. But there will surely be a majority who profess a religion with clear teaching on God as Creator.

    Of course this is not to say that 71.7% are true followers of Jesus. There are many who need to read this.

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