Americans three times more likely to believe in “Virgin Birth” than in Evolution.

No wonder I get so many creationist wackos visiting my site.

According to this New York Times article (free registration required) Americans are three times more likely to believe that the Biblical story of the virgin birth of Jesus is true (83%) than are likely to believe that Evolution is true (28%). The article also states that a majority of Americans (58%) also feel that a belief in God is necessary to be moral. The article goes on to say that this is particularly interesting given that many Biblical scholars will admit that the evidence of a virgin birth is shaky at best.

The result is a gulf not only between America and the rest of the industrialized world, but a growing split at home as well. One of the most poisonous divides is the one between intellectual and religious America.

Some liberals wear T-shirts declaring, “So Many Right-Wing Christians . . . So Few Lions.” On the other side, there are attitudes like those on a Web site, dutyisours.com/gwbush.htm, explaining the 2000 election this way:

“God defeated armies of Philistines and others with confusion. Dimpled and hanging chads may also be because of God’s intervention on those who were voting incorrectly. Why is GW Bush our president? It was God’s choice.”

The Virgin Mary is an interesting prism through which to examine America’s emphasis on faith because most Biblical scholars regard the evidence for the Virgin Birth, and for Mary’s assumption into Heaven (which was proclaimed as Catholic dogma only in 1950), as so shaky that it pretty much has to be a leap of faith. As the Catholic theologian Hans Kng puts it in “On Being a Christian,” the Virgin Birth is a “collection of largely uncertain, mutually contradictory, strongly legendary” narratives, an echo of virgin birth myths that were widespread in many parts of the ancient world.

Jaroslav Pelikan, the great Yale historian and theologian, says in his book “Mary Through the Centuries” that the earliest references to Mary (like Mark’s gospel, the first to be written, or Paul’s letter to the Galatians) don’t mention anything unusual about the conception of Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke do say Mary was a virgin, but internal evidence suggests that that part of Luke, in particular, may have been added later by someone else (it is written, for example, in a different kind of Greek than the rest of that gospel).

Yet despite the lack of scientific or historical evidence, and despite the doubts of Biblical scholars, America is so pious that not only do 91 percent of Christians say they believe in the Virgin Birth, but so do an astonishing 47 percent of U.S. non-Christians.

Which just goes to show you how popular it’s become to be credulous about everything you’re told these days.

28 thoughts on “Americans three times more likely to believe in “Virgin Birth” than in Evolution.

  1. Amazing.
    There was a moment in HS that I finally realized it was okay that I wasn’t Xian.
    I was taking a “Man & Myth” course.
    When i learned that Adam & Eve, Christ, The Flood, Creation were all archetypes and every civilization (ancient and modern) had its own version of each I knew I had been snowed when I was younger.
    I used to carry around a book of world mythologies and it really came in handy during “discussions” about religion.

  2. Leigh, no problem on the rant. You know I always appreciate hearing from you as you always ask good questions.

    Well … yeah. I mean … that’s what Christianity is all about, isn’t it? Faith? Believing in something you cannot see as though you can? I guess I just don’t understand the need for evidence of everything. Doesn’t that narrow your existence?

    Faith is the basis for most religions simply because they ask you to believe in incredible things that can’t normally be proven whether the belief in question is Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto or what have you.

    Does requiring evidence for everything narrow your existence? I wouldn’t think so. I may understand the natural processes behind a beautiful sunset, but that understanding doesn’t diminish my sense of awe when I see one. In that way I still have a sense of spirituality of a sort. I may believe there is enough evidence to accept evolution as true, but that doesn’t diminish the wonder of seeing my child turn 13 years old either. I know gravity exists, but it’s still a mystery as to how it works.

    Hope and faith … two things which, for me, make the toughest times worth trudging through. And, Les, I don

  3. I think that these polls should have an “incredulous poller” function. It would go something like this:

    Q: Do you believe, literally, in virgin birth?
    A: Yes.
    Q: (furrows brow) Really? You’re not going to hell. Come on now. Really.
    A: Sure I do.
    Q: Wow. OK.

    Hopefully, the incredulous poller could reduce the numbers to the 60% range.

  4. What if a woman never had sex and then gave birth.
    This would clearly be a virgin birth.

    But what if she had sex, had a child naturally,
    then gave birth later with out having sex.
    She wouldn’t be a virgin, but it would be a non-sexually procreated child.

    Maybe we need a new scienfic term here.
    Para-quasi-virginoidal birth.

  5. I’ve read in the past someplace that there have been modern examples of “virgin” births. One case involved a teenage girl who had recently engaged in oral sex with a boy and was later stabbed in the stomach with a knife. She survived the attack, but wound up pregnant when the ejaculate in her stomach spilled into her torso after being stabbed. I tried to find a web reference to this, but haven’t been able to locate it. Snopes doesn’t have it listed as an urban legend, but the validity is still questionable. Still, I can see where something such as that could happen and would technically qualify as a “virgin birth” with a rational explanation for it.

    Given the time period the events in the Bible are supposed to take place in I wonder how anyone from that period would be able to tell one way or the other whether or not a particular event would qualify as a virgin birth.

  6. I believe that even if that young girl had been stabbed in the stomach while she was being eaten by a shark and being hit by lightning, there is no way she could have gotten pregnant from oral sex.  For one, since stomach acid (HCl) will eat through metal, I doubt those little wiggly fellas (sperm) could have survived.  If not for the lining, the acid would eat our stomachs up!  Wow, that almost sounds like

  7. I think those who insist God must exist by basing their argument on the observably complex inter-connectedness of the universe miss the obvious counter-logic to their argument. A god who could construct such wonders would surely be beyond ego driven compulsions. A god who has the intelligence to put together a machine that works so well would likely be far too intelligent to desire or need human adoration or to require vengeance to mollify a wounded ego. On the other hand, an evolution of life requires the obvious, too. If something doesn

  8. Brock

    Actually quite elegant and I am in about 98% agreement with you!!!  I agree totally that people assign attributes (jealousy, cruelty, etc.) to a being that would clearly be above such pettiness.  What could shock or awe a being responsible for the creation of all matter?  If God knows all, then there are no surprises

  9. This is a little late to be commenting on this thread, but I couldn’t resist.

    There’s no conflict between evolution and virgin birth.  Once thought to be confined to lower animals, parthenogenesis has since been discovered far up the evolutionary ladder.  A species of lizard from the American Southwest, whose males were once thought to be extremely elusive, is now known to simply have no males- two females engage in (seemingly pointless) courtship behavior, and then one of them lays (unfertilized but viable) eggs.  Since the hatchlings lack a Y chromosome, they are naturally female.  Several more species of lizard that reproduce thus asexually have since been found, but no mammals so far.  The implications about Jesus are clear- if we are to believe Matthew and Luke,  she was a reptile.

  10. question Answer this for me.  If you go back to the beginning,  whenever that was,  who or what made the very first thing that started it all?  There has to be a beginnning.  Nothing has always been in existance;  so how did the very first particle start with nothing to start with?  Does anyone know?

  11. Answer this for me. IF nothing has always been in existence, then who made the God you appear to believe in? You answer that first and then I’ll answer your question.

  12. If there is a God,  He wouldn’t be God if He had not always been.  But nothing that was created has always been.  I mean,  if there’s one true God,  and no one over him,  who could have created Him.  And if there’s not a God, where did the first particle of matter come from?

  13. Now you’re changing your argument with qualifiers. Your first question contained a very simple statement “nothing has always been in existence” yet God would be “something” and when confronted with the obvious contradiction this poses you try to change your argument.

    Your follow up is full of fallacies as well. First you’re assuming that there is a single concept of God that is universally agreed upon and that’s not the case at all. Second, you try to qualify your original statement by adding the word “created” which just begs the question of why you’re assuming the first particle was created and not something that had always existed. Explain to me why it’s not possible for the Universe to have always existed in one form or another seeing as this is a contingent part of your question?

  14. Would you WANT there to be a God?  Maybe it was just chance that you were born into a home that didn’t lead you to a God.  You could have just as easily been born into a home that taught that there is a God.  After being brought up to believe there’s a God,  it still took me until I was 30 to have contact with Him that proved to me His existence.

  15. Damn Les, you must get tired of always explaining yourself. I didn’t post one comment until I read every one of you most commented posts. I tend to do that on all sites I post on. It seems most of the trolls here haven’t even browsed your site or they would at least know something of your religious background.

  16. I didn’t know I had to have been on this site before,  to be able to comment.  But why don’t you let Les speak for himself?

  17. It’s not required but it should be. For one thing, had you browsed any of the threads, you would know that you best be well prepared when starting a debate with Les or you’ll most likely leave with your tail between your legs. The dude gotz debate skillzzz!

  18. I love a good debate!  Especially when I know what I’m talking about.  Does it bother YOU for me to comment?  Eva

  19. Not at all, I simply like to read debates that haven’t already taken place but, if you bring a new argument to the table I’m sure plenty of others will join in. I always enjoy reading the philosophical ideas and religious views of new people so long as they are not the same recycled sermons that so many bring to the table.

  20. Well,  if you weren’t always an athiest, I probably don’t have anything to tell you that you haven’t already heard.  What continues to be a miracle to me, day after day,  is that I was raised in such a legalistic home that I came to the conclusion that I could never please God enough to have any kind of relationship with Him.  That didn’t keep me from trying,  over and over,  to find Him.  I came to the conclusion that great things like ever feeling God’s presence was for people who certainly were better than me.  But I am so hardheaded that I find it very hard to give up on something that I really want,  so I didn’t.  And what all happened to bring the impossible to pass is a very dramatic story that I don’t bother to tell people because it’s unbelievable – but my most prized memory.  I’m glad now that I had to wait so long,  because now I don’t take this rare relationship for granted.  It’s an ever-evolving miracle in my life every day.  It never gets old and I’ve never been disappointed.  You’re probably not open-minded enough to want to hear it,  so I won’t push it on you.  I just live knowing I am one of the most fortunate women who ever lived.  I’ve thought many times that I should put a sticker on my back bumper that says,  NO FEAR.  But I hate things stuck on cars,  so I don’t.  I’m certainly not afraid to be laughed at,  or called an odd ball,  I just don’t feel the need to mess up my car – even if it is an old Lexus.  Oh,  I use to be tempted to tell this story,  but not many people want to do what you have to do to reap the benefits.  If only they knew WHAT the benefits were,  they’d do anything to get them.  I’m so glad I’m hardheaded.  I wouldn’t take any amount of money for what I have found.  I wake up many mornings wanting to laugh out loud, and do sometimes.  But,  like I said,  most people don’t want to hear,  so I will keep my precious gift to myself most of the time.  I would say, God Bless,  but He won’t if you don’t want Him to.  Eva

  21. As Mick pointed out I haven’t always been an atheist and it’s ground we’ve covered may times before. You don’t have to read every entry before commenting, but it would be nice if you took the time to check out some of them, particularly anything under the heading “about me,” before making assumptions about how I was brought up. As Chazzy points out it does get a little tiring repeating the same thing every time someone new comes by my site. Having said that, let’s see what we have to work with:

    Would you WANT there to be a God?  Maybe it was just chance that you were born into a home that didn’t lead you to a God.  You could have just as easily been born into a home that taught that there is a God.  After being brought up to believe there’s a God, it still took me until I was 30 to have contact with Him that proved to me His existence.

    I’m not sure I understand your opening question. Would I “want” there to be a God? What does my desire have to do with the issue at all? I might “want” Santa Claus to be real or the Easter Bunny, but my desire plays no role in whether or not they actually do exist.

    I’ve covered the history of my upbringing elsewhere on the site so I won’t bother to repeat it here beyond saying that at one time I was a believer and a member of a Baptist church and I have read the Bible many times over in the past and still study it on occasion now in the present.

    Nice dodge of the questions I presented to you, though. Is there some reason you won’t answer them?

    I love a good debate!  Especially when I know what I’m talking about. 

    You’ve yet to give us any reason to hold confidence in the idea that you know what you’re talking about. You’ve done nothing but dodge the questions presented to you so far. Not much of a debate, really.

    Well, if you weren’t always an athiest, I probably don’t have anything to tell you that you haven’t already heard.

    This is likely to be very true.

    What continues to be a miracle to me, day after day, is that I was raised in such a legalistic home that I came to the conclusion that I could never please God enough to have any kind of relationship with Him.  That didn’t keep me from trying, over and over, to find Him.  I came to the conclusion that great things like ever feeling God’s presence was for people who certainly were better than me.  But I am so hardheaded that I find it very hard to give up on something that I really want, so I didn’t.  And what all happened to bring the impossible to pass is a very dramatic story that I don’t bother to tell people because it’s unbelievable – but my most prized memory. I’m glad now that I had to wait so long, because now I don’t take this rare relationship for granted.  It’s an ever-evolving miracle in my life every day.  It never gets old and I’ve never been disappointed.  You’re probably not open-minded enough to want to hear it, so I won’t push it on you.

    What is a “legalistic” home? That’s a new term for me. As for your story, everyone has one. If you’re not going to share it then why even mention it in the first place? I’m very open minded, but that’s not the same thing as saying that I’ll buy into whatever you’re selling. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t count for much other than perhaps entertainment, but if you’re happy with it then more power to you.

    I just live knowing I am one of the most fortunate women who ever lived.  I’ve thought many times that I should put a sticker on my back bumper that says, NO FEAR.  But I hate things stuck on cars, so I don’t.  I’m certainly not afraid to be laughed at, or called an odd ball, I just don’t feel the need to mess up my car – even if it is an old Lexus.  Oh, I use to be tempted to tell this story, but not many people want to do what you have to do to reap the benefits.  If only they knew WHAT the benefits were, they’d do anything to get them.  I’m so glad I’m hardheaded.  I wouldn’t take any amount of money for what I have found.  I wake up many mornings wanting to laugh out loud, and do sometimes.  But, like I said, most people don’t want to hear, so I will keep my precious gift to myself most of the time.  I would say, God Bless, but He won’t if you don’t want Him to.

    I dunno, I got a pretty good giggle out of what little you’ve shared so far. Hey, if it makes you happy and you sleep better at night then I wouldn’t have it any other way. As for wanting God to bless me, you may as well have substituted “The Red Underwear Fairy” for “God” for all the sense that statement makes to someone who doesn’t believe either one of those things exist.

    Or do you walk around wanting the Red Underwear Fairy to bless you as well? Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  22. At the risk- no, the certainty- of repeating ideas ably defended here by Les and others, here’s my slant.

    There are many paths to God, but science and logic will not take you there.  To claim that the universe logically requires a Creator, and then to grant Him diplomatic immunity from that same logic (who created the Creator?) is to posit a priori that which is to be proven.

    The same kind of circular logic gave us the ontological argument for the existence of God (St. Anselm, 1033-1109, Proslogium), briefly:  “God is, by definition, that of which greater cannot be conceived.  The fool hath said in his heart, God does not exist.  But the fool’s God, lacking existence, is not as great as a God who does exist.  Therefore, the true God cannot be conceived not to exist, and must therefore exist.”  This boils down to: if God exists, then he must exist.  I can plead for the existence of the Invisible Pink Unicorns the same way, of whom Logic says they are Invisible (because we can’t see them), and whose Pinkness must be taken on Faith.

    The argument from design is just as forlorn, as Richard Dawkins (among others) has pointed out.  If organized complexity needs an explanation, then invoking a necessarily organized and complex God solves nothing.

    One way to God many take is “credo consolans”, I believe because it consoles.  Even staunch materialists such as Isaac Asimov go this path.  And George Santayana, whose wise saying “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is especially apposite today, was a Catholic atheist.  His belief was summed up as “There is no God, and Mary is His Mother”.

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