Only 24 percent of Americans now believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, the lowest proportion ever in Gallup’s more than four decades of asking questions about scriptural worldview.
Meanwhile, while just one-in-four say “the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word,” an additional 26 percent view the Bible as a “book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.”
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There’s also a third option that falls somewhere in the middle: the proportion of those who say that the Bible is inspired by God, but shouldn’t all be taken literally. The largest proportion of Americans — 47 percent — embrace this sentiment, with that percentage remaining relatively unchanged over time.
The latest wave of the Gallup poll is stunning for one key reason: For the first in 40 years, biblical skepticism surpasses biblical literalism. And much of this change has been relatively rapid.
From the mid-1970s until 1984, nearly 40 percent of Americans said the Bible was the literal word of God, which is now down to 24 percent in 2017. In the 1970s, just 13 percent of Americans looked at the Bible as a book of human-penned fables, though that percentage has now doubled, as Gallup noted, “with much of that change occurring in the past three years.”
The cultural change in biblical perspective is sure to have ramifications on collective morality and behavior. While majorities still see the Bible as holy, more people are downplaying God’s role in the text, leading to a belief that scripture is open to interpretation.
“If man, not God, wrote the Bible, more can be questioned. And that, in turn, may have consequences for where Americans come down on a number of morally tinged issues,” Gallup concluded. “The country may already be seeing this in growing public acceptance of a variety of behaviors that were once largely frowned on from a Christian perspective — ranging from gay marriage and premarital sex to out-of-wedlock births and physician-assisted suicide.”
The results are based on a poll that was conducted via telephone from May 3-7, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points. Read the complete results for yourself here.
As Faithwire previously reported, the Barna Group recently found in a separate poll that just 17 percent of Christians who attend church regularly and say faith is a big part of their life have a “biblical worldview.”
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