Amid reports of a decline in American religiosity, Gallup's 2014 update to its annual Values and Beliefs poll shows 75 percent of Americans conclude that the Bible is in some way connected to God.
Gallup found 28 percent of those surveyed believe that the Bible is the actual word of God. That figure represents about a 10 percent drop from the 1970s, "but that decline mainly occurred in the 1980s and 1990s," explained Gallup's Lydia Saad.
"About one in five Americans view the Bible in purely secular terms — as ancient fables, legends, history and precepts written by man — which is up from 13 percent in 1976," she said.
That percentage reflects the proportion of Americans who reported that they identify as non-Christian or nonreligious in Gallup's 2013 study of American religion. The 2014 figure of 21 percent of nonreligious Americans is up from 17 percent in 2012, reported NPR.
Saad characterized the poll as an assurance that "U.S. Christians are Christian in more than name alone."
This year's poll was the first attempt to clarify how non-literalists understand God's involvement in the production of the Bible. Gallup offered half of the respondents the option that "the Bible is the actual word of God, but with multiple interpretations possible," with which 28 percent agreed.
Gallup also analyzed results by the religious background of respondents, an effort that delivered more good news for faith leaders. "At least nine in 10 Christians believe the Bible is connected in some way to God," compared to 75 percent of all Americans.
The Gallup results follows a recent study by the Barna Group, on behalf of the American Bible Society, that explored the state of the Bible in American culture. Barna reported that 79 percent of Americans believe the Bible is sacred.
A Deseret News National story by Mark Kellner on the Barna study analyzed the influence of the millennial generation on rising biblical skepticism. He wrote, "Millennials' attitudes toward the Bible are markedly different, the survey found: 19 percent of millennials believe no literature is sacred compared to 13 percent of all adults. Only 64 percent of the group say the Bible is sacred literature."
Though biblical literalism is on the decline, Gallup's conclusion that "three in four Americans consider the Bible holy to some degree" has been shared widely online. Ross Douthat, a columnist for the New York Times, and the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project both engaged with the statistic on Twitter. Douthat told followers to "read explicit literalism as rising (and the) 'moderate' position as diminishing," referencing the trend across 40 years.
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