One third of Americans?

A new Gallup poll shows just how bad things are for science and reason:

PRINCETON, NJ — About one-third of the American adult population believes the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally word for word. This percentage is slightly lower than several decades ago. The majority of those Americans who don’t believe that the Bible is literally true believe that it is the inspired word of God but that not everything it in should be taken literally. About one in five Americans believe the Bible is an ancient book of “fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man.”

Belief in a literal Bible is strongly correlated with indicators of religion, including church attendance and identification with a Protestant or other non-Catholic Christian faith. There is also a strong relationship between education and belief in a literal Bible, with such belief becoming much less prevalent among those who have college educations.


Here’s a graph of the results:

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On the other hand, perhaps one could look at it this way: “I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is that the percentage of Americans who believe that the Bible is word-for-word the absolutely inerrant Word of God to be taken literally, each and every word, has fallen slightly since the late 1970s/early 1980s. The bad news is it’s still nearly 1/3 of the population.”

Its’ also not particularly surprising that Catholics were less likely to say that the Bible should be taken completely literally, and the negative correlation between taking the Bible literally and education, with 40% of people with a high school education or less believing in its literalness, compared to only 11% of those with postgraduate educations, was consistent with many other polls that suggest that education negatively correlates with fundamentalist beliefs.

One thing I’ve never been able to understand is how one can take the Bible literally, given how many internal contradictions are there. After all, even the Gospels do not agree on many points about Jesus’ life. Back in Catholic school, even as a teenager I could see that it was a self-contradictory book in many places. I can see believing that the different authors responsible for the text were somehow inspired by God, but how does one convince oneself of such a belief that it is all inerrant?