Turns out that many Americans think that we will conquer death within the next 40 years. Not through science and technology, but through another major force in the world: the Second Coming of Christ and establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth apparently will provide us with the historic conquering of mortality within our lifetimes.
A Pew Research Poll showed that among American Christians nearly half, 47%, believe that Jesus will at least probably return to earth within the next 40 years, with the majority of that group (27%) believing that Jesus definitely will return in the near future. Only 10% of American Christians believe that Jesus will definitely not return within their lifetimes.
Outside the absurdity of believing that a dead man from 2000 years ago will literally arise from the grave within our lifetimes, our high degree of religiosity continues to have major negative effects on the United States, turning us into the laughingstock of the world and actively harming the future of the nation.
Belief in religious dogma is not only limited to matters of theology but scientific fact as well. Close to half, 46%, of all Americans believe that God created humans in their present form rather than some form of evolution, even when the option for evolution guided by God was made available to the respondents. Among those who attend church the percentage skyrockets: 55% of those who attend church almost every month believe in creationism. 67% of those who attend church weekly believe in it as well.
These odd beliefs persist despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that biological evolution is the way humanity came about on Earth. 97% of scientists polled by Pew believed in evolution. In response to a list published by stealth creationism organization The Discovery Institute expressing that 700 scientists supported "intelligent design." the National Center for Science Education produced "Project Steve," a list of scientists with the name Steve who supported evolution that has grown to dwarf the Discovery Institute’s list.
Against such overwhelming scientific evidence, the religious right has attempted to legislate ways to disprove basic scientific facts with a reality that fits a religious agenda. 87 years after the Scopes monkey trial, where a teacher, John Scopes, was arrested for teaching evolution to his students, Tennessee recently passed an "academic freedom" bill which is actually a barely disguised attempt to give cover for teaching creationism in schools. The language of the bill states that it provides protection for teachings who "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught."
Louisiana passed a similar bill in 2008 that called for school boards to "allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life."
The legislation is based largely on language drafted by the Discovery Institute. Their model "academic freedom" bill would provide "protection for teachers concerning scientific presentations on views regarding biological and chemical evolution and students concerning their positions on views regarding biological and chemical evolution."
This language in turn is based a defeated amendment proposed by the former Senator Rick Santorum, one of the leading voices of the religious right. The Santorum Amendment stated that "where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject."
In an age where American schoolchildren are falling behind in math and science, ranking 24th among 24 countries in 2009 and having gains in academics from 1995-2009 that are "hardly remarkable by world standards," introducing such nonsense into our school system is not even neutral. It is actively harmful to the future of the nation. Yet the political arm of Christianity continues in its brazen support of dogma over facts.
This adherence to dogma in modern day American society harms us all. Yet modern American Christianity seeks to deny the truths of the modern world, predicting that the world will end in our lifetimes and that basic scientific facts should be fought at all costs. Without a change in how it interacts with society, American Christianity will find itself battling against reality more and more in the future.