According to a new Gallup Poll, 3 in 10 Americans take the Bible to be the literal word of the god of Abraham. Another 49 percent say the Bible is inspired by a god but should not be taken literally. According to the Gallup Poll, this is the most common view over the question’s 40-year history. A small but significant 17 percent say the book is an ancient collection of stories. This would place it on a par with Homer’s Iliad or any other collection of cultural stories, including my own Poetic Edda.
Unsurprisingly, Gallup reports,
Belief in a literal interpretation of a Bible declines as educational attainment increases. Forty-six percent of Americans with a high school education or less take the Bible literally, compared with no more than 22% of Americans with at least some college education. The majority of Americans with at least some college education believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God.
The number drops to 15 percent for college grads while a whopping 25 percent of postgraduates see the Bible as a book of fables/legends. This will confirm for liberals some of the reasons for fundamentalist hostility toward state-supported education (public schools) and academia. In my own community you can readily hear fundamentalists chatting in restaurants, complaining about academics “being the problem” because they “question” what should be believed. Education will do that. It’s no surprise fundamentalists prefer to plug their ears when confronted with the facts of the Bible, or worse, follow the path of David Barton in simply re-writing all that history.
The number increases based on frequency of church attendance:
Also in the Department of No-Surprises, Gallup reports that “Conservatives, Republicans More Likely to Take Bible Literally”:
Given the strong link between religion and politics in the U.S., it is not surprising that views of the Bible vary by party identification and ideology. The poll finds 42% of Republicans, compared with 23% of independents and 27% of Democrats, saying the Bible is literally true.
Conservatives are much more likely than moderates and liberals to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. In fact, conservatives are as likely to believe the Bible is the actual word of God as to believe it is the inspired word of God.
The number is scary in one respect, that in the year 2011, with so much known about the actual history of the book in question, so many people would still take it to be the literal word of a god. There is the little matter of all the contradictions contained within this book as well, an issue we covered here earlier.
On the other hand, it shows that even despite 8 years of conservative rule (2001-2008) and two years of religious-friendly centrist rule (2009-2011), during which the religious right had every advantage, including Faith Based initiatives, this 30 percent is up only 2 percent from 2001.
In that sense, the poll visibly “defangs” the fundamentalist monster. They’re only one-third of the American population, not the majority they pretend to be. It is no wonder when social issues are polled that fundamentalists come up second. The only people they are fooling is themselves.
That doesn’t mean, however, that they are not a threat. They are. They are wealthy, organized, and motivated, and as I showed yesterday they have time and again triumphed over pluralistic majorities. Frank Schaeffer also discusses the threat of fundamentalism in a new piece on AlterNet.
Gallup points out that that “The percentage of Americans taking a literal view of the Bible has declined over time, from an average of 38% from 1976-1984 to an average of 31% since.” This is the good news. The bad news is that “highly religious Americans — particularly those of Protestant faiths — still commonly believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.”
In general, the dominant view of Americans is that the Bible is the word of God, be it inspired or actual, as opposed to a collection of stories recorded by man. That is consistent with the findings that the United States is a predominantly Christian nation and that Americans overwhelmingly believe in God.
And that’s the thing. America is and always has been, population-wise, a predominantly Christian nation. The mistake is in thinking that the Founding Fathers established the United States itself as a Christian nation. The two are not identical. The evidence is entirely and conclusively in favor of the United States being a secular nation government-wise, whatever the people believe religiously speaking. The 18th century’s Christians (and Roger Williams in the 17th century) understood this to be a good thing, and went along with that radical infidel Thomas Jefferson’s idea of a Wall of Separation. It’s a shame today’s fundamentalists have decided that what the Founding Fathers intended all along, but somehow failed to institute, was a Christian theocracy.