Believers or not, most say 'I believe in a creator' in U.S.

Sunday, October 11, 2015
Michael F. Haverluck (

Bible with American flagA new survey has found that most Americans — whether religious or not — believe that a creator is responsible for the origins of mankind and the universe.

According to the latest results from a study conducted by Lifeway Research, most Americans believe that the universe was designed by a creator who also defines the moral code of mankind.

The Lifeway survey found that an overwhelming majority of Americans (72 percent overall) agree with the following statement: “Since the universe has organization, I think there is a creator who designed it.” This statement was also in agreement with 46 percent of the 1,000 American participants who registered as “nones” (atheists, agnostics and other non-religious individuals).

And which Americans are most likely to strongly agree with the aforementioned statement? Two groups were pointed out at the top of the list — Evangelicals and older adults.

Another statement put before those participating in the survey found relatively similar results. When presented with the argument, “The fact that we exist means someone created us,” 79 percent of all Americans taking the survey agreed.

USA Today’s journalist on relgion, Cathy Lynn Grossman, contends that the results should not be surprising.

A Closer Look“After all, three in four U.S. adults identify with a religious denomination,” Grossman points out. “The surprise is that so many people who don’t identify with a religion — so-called nones — agree.”

Religious or not, many Americans believe in a creator

Unexpected by many, it was discovered that more nonreligious Americans believe that logic points to a creator than those who don’t.

“And although the nonreligious are less likely than other Americans to see evidence of a creator, they are more likely to agree (46 percent) than disagree (40 percent) with the statement: ‘Since the universe has organization, I think there is a creator who designed it,’” Facts & Trends magazine’s Lisa Cannon Green reports.

Lifeway Research Executive Director Ed Stetzer maintains that the logic behind the existence of a creator is too convincing even for a good percentage of nonreligious Americans to pass up.

“People who seek to set out reasons to believe, often called apologetics, have historically framed their argument in similar ways,” Stetzer shared. “The large number of nonreligious people agreeing with some of these arguments points us to a surprising openness to classic apologetic arguments. Or, put another way, even nonreligious people are open to the idea there is a creator.”

Houston Baptist University Assistant Professor of Apologetics Mary Jo Sharp points out the specific rationale that many nones use to ground their belief that a supernatural creator brought the universe into existence.

“The infinitesimal odds that life arose by blind chance is a formidable argument,” emphasized Sharp, who has written books and spoken at seminars on the topic.

Whose morality?

More participants believe that a creator is responsible for the creation of the universe than a universal moral code.

“Americans are less certain whether a creator defines right and wrong,” Green states. “A smaller majority, 66 percent, says people’s moral values attest to a creator who determines morality.”

Stetzer argues that less Americans attribute morality to a creator because of the moral relativism and increasing acceptance of unbiblical behaviors tolerated and practiced by Americans.

“Similar moral threads across cultures are evidence for many that someone has imprinted a common standard upon the human conscience,” Stetzer indicated. “However, it is worth noting the moral argument has less sway here, perhaps because of our changing views on what is and is not moral.”

Different groups of nonbelievers are surprisingly divided when it comes to arguments for and against a creator.

“Many atheists, agnostics, and those with no religious preference find the existence of human life to be a persuasive argument for a creator, with 43 percent agreeing: ‘The fact that we exist means someone created us,’” Green recounted. “However, a larger share (48 percent) disagrees.”

With good and evil often being blurred in American schools and the media, as well as in the entertainment industry, many are not surprised that the relatively lower belief in their existence was tallied in the study.

“The existence of good and evil is a less compelling argument for the nonreligious,” Green noted. “More than half (53 percent) disagree with the statement: ‘Since people have morality, I think there is a creator who defines morality.’ Nevertheless, a third of the nonreligious (33 percent) think human morals point to a creator who defines right and wrong.”

Sharp says that the core beliefs of atheists makes it difficult for them to adopt a belief in an absolute moral code.

“The existence of good and evil is difficult to explain from an atheistic worldview, because in that view, there is no stable external grounding outside of humans for a standard of goodness,” Sharp explained.

Christian worldview

However, evidence for a creator is a no-brainer to virtually all believers, but their reasoning for believing in a creator’s existence varies slightly.

“Not surprisingly, Christians — particularly evangelicals — overwhelmingly say they see compelling proof of a creator,” Green continued.  As evidence, 91 percent of Christians and 95 percent of evangelicals point to the existence of humanity, while 81 percent of Christians and 85 percent of evangelicals cite the structure of the universe.”

She also mentions that moral absolutes are less connected to the reasoning for Christian Americans’ belief in a creator.

“They are slightly less confident that the existence of morality proves a creator who determines moral values, with 77 percent of Christians and 83 percent of evangelicals saying human morals indicate a creator who defines right and wrong,” Green divulged.

The age factor

Age was found to be a considerable factor in how Americans responded to the Lifeway’s survey.

“Although most American adults of all ages believe in a creator, a sharp uptick emerges at midlife,” the reporter announced. “On every measure, Americans 45 and older are more likely to see evidence of a creator than those 18─44.”

When it comes to morality, the biggest disparity appeared.

“Three-quarters of those 45 and older agree the presence of human moral values indicates a creator who defines right and wrong, an opinion shared by only 57 percent of adults 44 and younger,” Green informed. “Disagreement is twice as common among Americans 18─44 (34 percent) as those 45 and older (17 percent).”

Representative of the secular influences at work in the youth culture, younger Americans have less of a problem believing that they live in a God-less world.

“Younger Americans are also more likely than those 45 and older to believe human life may exist without a creator,” Green added. “Eighty-six percent of those 45 and older agree the presence of human beings points to a creator; only 1 in 10 disagrees. Among those 18─44, however, 72 percent believe human life is evidence of a creator and nearly a quarter (22 percent) disagree.”

And with the rules at play in the physical universe, older Americans can’t help but believe that an intelligent creator put it all in place, as opposed to a spontaneous explosion.

“More than three-fourths of those 45 and older (77 percent) consider the orderliness of the universe to be a sign of a creator, a view held by two-thirds (66 percent) of those 18-44,” the research revealed, according to Green.

Gender and location matters

Gender and what region of the country participants inhabit also appear to have affected the responses of participants when it comes to their belief — or lack of — in a creator.

“Men (22 percent) are more likely than women (17 percent) to disagree that the structure of the universe points to a creator,” Lifeway Research reported, says Green. “Women, meanwhile, are more likely (85 percent) than men (73 percent) to believe the existence of human life means someone created it.”

Those living in some parts of the country are more likely to believe in a creator than those from other parts.

“The survey found a surprising alignment of opinion between the usually dissimilar Northeast and South,” Green noted about the research. “Northeasterners (87 percent) and Southerners (82 percent) are more likely than those in the West (71 percent) to view the presence of human life as an indication of a creator.”

Other regional trends were also found after tallying up the findings.

“Similarly, those in the Northeast (72 percent) and South (69 percent) agree more often than Westerners (58 percent) that human morals point to a creator who defines morality,” Green continued. “Northeasterners (75 percent) and Southerners (74 percent) are also more likely than those in the Midwest (64 percent) to see the organization of the universe as evidence of creation.”

A need for more evangelism and convincing arguments will continue to be needed to keep the number of nonreligious Americans believing in a creator at relatively high levels, as Stetzer contends that godless philosophies are proliferating throughout the United States inside and outside of academia.

“In an increasingly secular age, where the Christian faith has perhaps lost its home-field advantage, Christians will need to make their case for the creator and ultimately for the Gospel,” Stetzer concludes. “It appears people —even nonreligious people — are indeed open to apologetics arguments, if Christians will actually make them.”



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