Thirty percent of Americans are Biblical literalists

July 23, 2011

Thirty percent of Americans believe the Bible is the actual and literal word of God, according to a new study from the polling organization Gallup. Meanwhile, 49 percent said the Bible is the inspired word of God and that it should not be taken literally, while 17 percent said they consider it an ancient book of stories recorded by men.

You can click on the graph to the right to make it larger and put these numbers into brief historical perspective. Since polling on this question began in 1977, there has been an eight-point decline in the number of people who answer "Actual word." As you can see, those eight percentage points have been split evenly between "Inspired word" (From 45 to 49 percent) and "book of fables/legends" (from 13 to 17 percent). This is a small but noted trend toward a more liberal interpretation of religion. 

You can find further analysis at the Gallup website.




#1 gray1 on Saturday July 23, 2011 at 10:00am

What is truly depressing is that the literacy rate in general is so poor in this day and age.  This is particularly true of those incarcerated in the U.S.A.  One would think it would serve our long-term interests to teach such captive audiences how to read so that they might some day actually be capable of making a qualified opinion as to the efficacy of reading any of the various religious works as well as perhaps otherwise fitting into society.

#2 Tradition Of Progress on Saturday July 23, 2011 at 11:54am

Fables and legends yes, but also some poems, proverbs, and whatever you want to call the Book of Lamentations.  Then, many of the “books” in the “New Testament” are letters written by men, and even indicate this in their text, yet somehow these get to be considered the “word of God”.  So to consider the whole thing to be the inerrant “word of god”, one must not spend too much time reading it.

#3 jerrys on Saturday July 23, 2011 at 3:10pm

There is a lot of noise in this data.  To my eye the “trends” could easily be noise.  I’d like to see a statistical analysis.  (But no, I personally don’t know how to do it)

#4 Michael De Dora on Monday July 25, 2011 at 10:21am

@Gray1, it should come as no surprise that Biblical literalism correlates negatively with education:

#5 Holly (Guest) on Monday July 25, 2011 at 11:44am

I’d be more concerned if I believed that 30% knew what “literal” meant.

#6 gray1 on Wednesday July 27, 2011 at 8:20am

Hah! Very well expressed, but unfortunately such seemingly ill-qualified people are allowed and even encouraged to vote.

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