Data: Not Keeping the Faith


As Osama bin Laden could tell you, religious extremism—especially Islamic fundamentalism—is a major force shaping world events today. But is Christian fundamentalism in America on the rise? A Gallup poll analyzed in the March Scientific American by Rodger Doyle suggests a trend toward moderation among evangelical Christians.

From the late 1970s to 2000, the share of surveyed Americans who said they took the Bible literally declined by about 10 percentage points. Similar trends hold for support of Bible prayer in school and proselytizing. Meanwhile, the share of Americans describing themselves as "born again" or "evangelical" has bounced between 40 percent and 50 percent. Concludes Doyle, "The decline in the number of those believing in the inerrancy of the Bible and those supporting prayer in schools suggests that evangelicals are becoming more like other Americans in that they are more accepting of gender and racial equality and are moderating extreme antiabortion attitudes, according to other research."

GRAPH NOT PICTURED: Indicators of Evangelicalism in the U.S. (percent of adults)