Wednesday, 6 July 2022

More Evidence of Declining Religion in USA

Fewer in U.S. Now See Bible as Literal Word of God

More evidence of the decline in religion in the USA was published today in the form of a Gallop survey into the view of American adults on the origins of the Bible, which shows that the belief that the Bible is the literal word of God has declined to the minority view. Nevertheless, this view is still held by 1 in 5 American adults!

Although this view has never been held by more than 50% of Americans, is has almost halved from 38 to 20 percentage points since August 1976. Over the same period, the view that the Bible is just a collection of myths and fables has more than doubled from 13 to 29 percentage points. The 'middle’ view, that the Bible is the inspired word of God but not all of it should be taken literally, has always hovered around 45%-50% and now stands at 49%, up just 4 percentage point from 45% in August 1976.

Between 2002 and 2022, the decline in belief that the Bible is the literal word of God, has declined in step with the decline in the importance of religion in the lives of US Adults. In 2002, 60% of US adults said that religion was very important to them. This figure has now fallen to 44%. Over the same period, belief in the literal truth of the Bible has declined from 30% to 20%.

Among the broad demographic of 'Christian', twice as many Protestants hold the view that the Bible is God's literal word than Catholics (30% and 15%, respectively) but two-thirds of Catholics believe the Bible is inspired by God but need not be taken literally.

Overall, perhaps surprisingly, almost as many Christians (16%) believe the Bible is just a collection of myths and fables as believe it is the literal word of God (25%). 58% of Christians think the Bible was inspired by God but should not be taken literally.

Perhaps also surprisingly, is the finding that 6% of non-Christians, which includes other religions and none, believe the Bible is God's literal truth, although it is not clear from these figures how the view that parts of the Bible might God's literal words, while other parts of it are not. For example, an orthodox Jew might believe the first five books and other parts of the Old Testament were dictated by God, while believing that the whole New Testament is made up. Conversely, some Christians might believe the entire New Testament is literal truth, while the Old Testament is mostly Hebrew origin myths and legends.

The final chart shows how those who attend church weekly and those who identify as evangelical or ‘born again’ are more inclined to believe the Bible is God's literal truth, although that view is never held by a majority of any demographic analysed in this survey. This view is more likely to be held by those without the benefit of a college education, showing that the more highly educated an American adult is, the more likely they are to regard the Bible as just a collection of myths and legends. Of course, this basis for classification pays no regard to the type of education – science, arts, etc.

Although these figures are encouraging and tell a consistent story with other recent polls and surveys that show the long, slow abandonment of religion in the USA in line with that in other advanced economies, it is remarkable that so many Americans still believe the Bible is the literally, divinely inspired truth. They believe this, not on the evidence, which starkly shows otherwise, and despite the complete absence of any evidence that such a deity actually exists, but because they are told what to believe from the pulpit of a religion they inherited from their parents, by clerics who have a vested interest in people holding onto those beliefs.

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