America is still overwhelmingly a believing nation.
At least, that's what a recently released USA Today/Gallup poll suggests, with nearly 80 percent of those surveyed indicating that they believe the Bible to be either the actual word of God or the inspired word of God.
The survey, conducted in early May of this year, was actually looking at this question: "Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the Bible: the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word; the Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally; or the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man?"
Forty-nine percent of those responding indicated their belief that the Bible is the inspired word of God, but not everything in it should be taken literally, while 30 percent of respondents said the Bible is the literal word of God and should be taken literally. So 79 percent of Americans — nearly eight out of 10 — believe the Bible to be the word of God, either inspired or literal.
The combined number — 79 percent — actually represents a slight increase over the last time the Gallup organization asked this question — December 2008, when the combined total was 77 percent. The number is down from 1980, when the combined total was 85 percent. But it has generally hovered between 75 and 80 percent for most of the past 30 years.
"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," wrote Jeffrey M. Jones on the Gallup website.
Jones indicated that these findings are consistent with other similar survey results. Last month, for example, the Gallup organization released the results of another survey, in which respondents were asked: "Do you believe in God?" Ninety-two percent of those polled answered "yes."
The Gallup organization first asked that question in 1944. The "yes" answer then was only slightly more resounding: 96 percent.
All of which led Gallup's Frank Newport to conclude: "Despite the many changes that have rippled through American society over the last six-and-a-half decades, belief in God as measured in this direct way has remained high and relatively stable."