Politics

Because the Bible Says So…

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The Wash Times reports on a new series of polls by Gallup that document whether Americans believe the Bible is the literal, inerrant word of God (31 percent), "the inspired word of God" (47 percent), or "a book of ancient fables, history and 'moral precepts' recorded by man" (17 percent).

The recovering Catholic in me–and weekend clerk at St. Jerome's Good Tymes Vulgate and Scapular Shoppe–immediately asks: Which Bible?

Moving on, here's the weirdest bit from Gallup:

"It is interesting to note, however, that 10 percent of those with no religious identification still believe the Bible is literally the word of God, and another 26 percent say it is inspired," [Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank] Newport said.

Give those 10 percenters a drink on the house. And make it a double, because they're definitely going to hell. And it's not looking so good for the other 26 percent either. At least, that what the the Bible says.

Some other related findings of note in the Wash Times story:

Seventy-eight percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats say the Bible is "totally accurate in all of its teachings," according to a survey of 1,006 adults conducted in January by the Barna Group, a marketing firm….

The Bible continues to be the best-selling book ever. Americans alone buy 25 million Bibles a year, according to Publisher's Weekly. Bible sales are now reaching $609 million a year, with specialty Bibles available for myriad "niche" audiences, from motorcycle riders to campers, brides and archaeologists. "Immerse," a water-resistant Bible for troops overseas, is now available from publisher Bardin & Marsee.

Whole story here.

Some years back, Reason explored "what the Christian culture industry tells us about secular society" in the wonderful–and respectful–story, "Jesus Sells."

Info of God's Secretaries, an excellent account of how the King James translation, widely considered the most influential version of the Bible, came into being.

Update: Justin Cole of the lefty watchdog group Media Matters points me to a recent report by his group filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth about how progressive religious figures are "Left Behind" (get it?) by the mainstream media. After looking at big newspapers and major TV broadcast and cable news shows, the study concludes, "Coverage of religion not only overrepresents some voices and underrepresents others, it does so in a way that is consistently advantageous to conservatives."

The big number MM compiles? "Combining newspapers and television, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders."

Eh, mebbe, but after a quick read of the study, it doesn't seem to control for the size of the various groups or audiences delivered by various preacher men. So if the Family Research Council's unfortunately named Tony Perkins has a bigger mailing list, he's more likely to get quoted than Sojourners' Jim Wallis (that both are basically tools for reasons that have nothing to do with God is arguably a more interesting question than how often they befoul the mediascape).

Read the whole report, which has lots of fun charts–and works overtime to explain why Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (both of whom had far more citations than anybody else mentioned in the study) don't really count as religious figures–here.

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  1. “It is interesting to note, however, that 10 percent of those with no religious identification still believe the Bible is literally the word of God, and another 26 percent say it is inspired,” [Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank] Newport said.

    wtf?

  2. I will never understand how a book that was put together by a damn committee can be considered the literal word of God.

  3. “Seventy-eight percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats say the Bible is “totally accurate in all of its teachings,” according to a survey of 1,006 adults conducted in January by the Barna Group, a marketing firm….”

    So much for the Republicans are all fundy simpletoms and Democrats are all enlightened athiests myth. 69% of Democrats? Even I am surprised by that. Of course, Democrats includes 90% of African Ameircans who tend to be Christian and very religous.

  4. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see any stat correlating those numbers with how many people actually read their bibles.

  5. Nick,
    You’ve been describing yourself as a “recovering Catholic” for some time now. When will you become fully recovered? Or does your disease require lifelong counseling?

  6. “Seventy-eight percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats say the Bible is ‘totally accurate in all of its teachings’…”

    Anyone want to wager the percentage is even higher for both sets among elected officials (at least if you ask them)?

  7. “no religious identification” evidently means “non-denominational but still Christian since there is no other god but God”.

  8. “no religious identification” does not necesarilly mean atheist, agnostic or skeptic. It could just mean people who are Christian but are “nondenominational” or maybe some of people filled in the wrong circle with their #2 pencil.

  9. Why doesn’t G-d update the medium of her officially inspired/literal “word”? Shouldn’t she have a website, or a blog, a powerpoint presentation, something? I mean, come on already, it is like the 13th day after creation, and all.

    Hell, she could even have a myspace page, or be in an indie rock band by now.

    So lazy.

  10. Since so many are convinced it is the word of God, then we need to cherry pick the pro-libertarian parts, put them in a book, and use it to show believers that God is on our side.
    If God is a Libertarian, then we can’t be too kooky to consider when it is time to vote.

  11. steveintheknow,

    Shouldn’t she have a website

    http://www.bible.com

    You dont even have to answer the “which version” question, you have the choice of many.

  12. I had a friend in the service who always identified as Christian. I thought this was odd because he often said things that just weren’t Christian. Not in the sin or hate sense but rather just in the ‘Uh, that isn’t part of Christian metaphysics.’ At what point, I asked him if he believe in the Christian God, Jesus as the Son of God, and Christianity as the path to Heaven. I didn’t even get into really sticky territory like the Trinity and what not.

    He admitted he didn’t really believe most of that. I asked them why he identified as Christian. He said, “Well, isn’t that kind of the default?”

  13. After some soul searching, I realize that I believe that the translation of a translation of a translation of a translation of an ancient text is literally the word of God.

  14. And by most of that, the only thing he did actually believed was that “there is a God”.

  15. “I will never understand how a book that was put together by a damn committee can be considered the literal word of God.”

    Luke was included in the New Testament by only 1 vote above those opposed to including it.

  16. creech,

    Like this?

    This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle [b] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day. — 1 Samuel 8:11-18

  17. New World Dan,

    My thoughts exactly. The Bible, except in certain parts, is fairly boring.

  18. “It is interesting to note, however, that 10 percent of those with no religious identification still believe the Bible is literally the word of God, and another 26 percent say it is inspired,”

    What’s the confusion? They’re either Christians who fell out of one sect and haven’t glommed onto another – hence, they don’t identify themselves with any religion – or they’re touch-feely pan-theists, who think that there are many ways to God, man, and they’re all, like, groovy.

  19. “So much for the Republicans are all fundy simpletoms and Democrats are all enlightened athiests myth. 69% of Democrats? Even I am surprised by that. Of course, Democrats includes 90% of African Ameircans who tend to be Christian and very religous.”

    So Ann Coulter is wrong when she says Democrats are Godless.

  20. If God is a Libertarian…

    God would be an objectivist.
    Satan is the libertarian.

  21. Rattlesnake,

    So Ann Coulter is wrong when she says Democrats are Godless.

    Corrected that for you.

  22. What about the books that missed the canon by just one vote? Are they considered “marginally not the word of god”? And conversely, the books that made it in by one vote… “Marginally the word of god?”

    Was the committee that determined what goes in and what gets left on the dead sea floor somehow divinely inspired?

    To this apathetic agnostic, it just seems so irrational to believe that it is the inerrant word of G-d. Do these people know their bible history? Do they just not care? Of course, in a homogeneous environment of this sort of people, the information costs of being wrong are very low. Hell, if their faith is strong, the information costs are low no matter what.

  23. “Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see any stat correlating those numbers with how many people actually read their bibles.”

    A whole lot haven’t. Most of them are not aware of all the crap that is in there.

  24. robc

    Ok cool, website *check*.

    But still no indie rock band. All I am saying is that anything would have been better then that chick who opened for Morrissey. Hence, there is no God. 🙂

  25. I suspect “literally true” correlates with “haven’t read it” pretty strongly. This is one of those things where people tell pollsters what they think they’re supposed to say maybe? I dunno. Psalms is the only bit that ever did much for me. Plus I knew Jesus was a hippy but until I actually read it I didn’t know how high he flew his Freak Flag. Like the rich man/eye of the needle thing. Go back to Russia.

  26. One of the consequences of the growing alienation and isolation of people is that they begin to develop highly irrational and self-destructive attitudes. You want to try to identify yourself somehow. You don’t want to be just glued to the television set. You want something in your life. If most of the constructive ways are cut off, you turn to other ways. You can see that in the polls, too. I was just looking at a study published in England, done by an American sociologist, of comparative religious attitudes in various countries. The figures are shocking. Three-quarters of the American population literally believes in religious miracles. The numbers who believe in the devil, in resurrection, God does this and that — astonishing. These are numbers that you have nowhere in the industrial world. You’ve got to go to maybe mosques in Iran, or maybe do a poll among old ladies in Sicily. You might get numbers like this. This is the American population.

  27. Why doesn’t G-d update the medium of her officially inspired/literal “word”? Shouldn’t she have a website, or a blog, a powerpoint presentation, something?

    Jesus and the Devil got into a huge argument over which was most computer savvy, so God set up a test. Jesus and the Devil went to work word processing, doing a spreadsheet, manipulating graphics, working a database, setting up a web page, desktop publishing, etc. Just as they were wrapping up the power went out.

    The Devil blasphemed, administered percussive maintenance, tortured a few souls, and otherwise raised Cain. Jesus just waited for the power to come back on, then immediately began printing out his results. The Devil demanded to know what was going on.

    And God said, “Jesus saves.”

    whether Americans believe the Bible is the literal, inerrant word of God (31 percent), “the inspired word of God” (47 percent)

    The trick isn’t to get Americans to believe the Bible’s true, it’s to get them to agree on what that truth is.

  28. How many of the respondants think “literally” means “really, really?”

  29. “Anyone want to wager the percentage is even higher for both sets among elected officials (at least if you ask them)?”

    One senator who was an atheist was the blind senator from Oklahoma during the Depression, Senator Gore, Gore Vidall’s grandfather. Of course the senator kept it a secret from the public, otherwise he would never have been elected, especially in a Bible Belt state like Oklahoma.

  30. “Psalms is the only bit that ever did much for me.”

    I like Ecclesiastes. It says there is no heaven and hell and tells us to live for today, because tomorrow we die.

  31. How many of the respondants think “literally” means “really, really?”

    Maybe they’re the same tards who say things like, “I was so embarrassed that I *literally* died!”

  32. JN –

    Since the literalists don’t dispute that the Bible was physically written by humans, the Bible history doesn’t really matter.

    If the first scribes to assemble the OT could be divinely inspired, God could have intervened in the early Church councils, too. Why not? Once you let divine providence into the mix, anything is possible.

  33. Bah! This entire blog entry only proves that Gillespie is just a shill for Big Bible.

  34. And God said, “Jesus saves.”

    LarryA, you crack me up! 😉

  35. I find these polls to be highly suspect. For example, the Gallup poll that said 50% of American believe in Creationism… I have never met a single literal Creationist in person, EVER, despite living all but 7 years of my life in the United States. You would think that if 50% of Americans were Creationists, I would have met at least a single person who would admit they are a creationist.

  36. Really Rex? I’ve met a lot of creationists. People who straight up state that the Earth was created about 6000 or so years ago in seven literal twenty-four hour days.

    I’ve lived in a number of different states and cities as well.

  37. Though you have a point. A lot of the ‘creationists’ in the poll might actually be IDers. Whatever people feel about that, it is distinct from pure creationism.

  38. Chomsky,

    Neither Americans nor Europeans got high marks in a 2001 quiz designed to test their knowledge of science. Both groups were asked 13 questions. On average, Americans answered 8.2 questions correctly, compared with 7.8 for Europeans.[22] Americans scored higher than Europeans on seven of the questions (figure 7-6 ).

    Belief in astrology is more prevalent in Europe, where 53 percent of those surveyed thought it is “rather scientific” and only a minority (39 percent) said it is not at all scientific (European Commission 2001). Europeans were more likely to say that astrology is scientific than to say the same about economics: only 42 percent of those surveyed thought that economics was scientific. Disciplines most likely to be considered scientific by Europeans were medicine (93 percent), physics (90 percent), biology (88 percent), astronomy (78 percent), mathematics (72 percent), and psychology (65 percent). History (33 percent) was at the bottom of the list. (Comparable U.S. data on the various disciplines do not exist.)

    Europeans were more likely than Americans to agree that “some numbers are particularly lucky for some people.” The percentages were 46 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

  39. Chomsky,

    BTW, I’d say the belief in miracles and the belief in astrology or “lucky numbers” are fairly comparable.

  40. Chomsky,

    Oh, and here is a link to the public understanding of science poll.

  41. “I find these polls to be highly suspect. For example, the Gallup poll that said 50% of American believe in Creationism… I have never met a single literal Creationist in person, EVER, despite living all but 7 years of my life in the United States. You would think that if 50% of Americans were Creationists, I would have met at least a single person who would admit they are a creationist.”

    Where do you live? Obviously not here in the South or Midwest.

  42. physics (90 percent)

    I heartily endorse the 10% of the European population that refuse to believe the hype of the Physicist.

    If an MC drops some science on you, it’s most likely to be chemistry or physiology; it’s never physics.

  43. Rex,
    Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe you need to associate with a broader class of people. Or maybe you know more creationists than you think.

    Where you live makes a big difference too. West Michigan is thick with Dutch Christian Reform (very conservative protestants), but I only ran into one college educated creationist. Out here in Podunk Missouri, it’s the other way around.

  44. “BTW, I’d say the belief in miracles and the belief in astrology or “lucky numbers” are fairly comparable.”

    So they’re both superstitious, one from a traditionalist basis and the other from a new age basis.

  45. Consider that according to the poll over 20% of the American populace and over 30% of the European Union’s populace (as of 2001) apparently think that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

  46. I like Ecclesiastes. It says there is no heaven and hell and tells us to live for today, because tomorrow we die.

    Didn’t the Bible take that sentiment from an earlier, pre-Judaism religion? Epic of Gilgamesh, maybe?
    I bet Grotius would know.

  47. highnumber,

    It depends on where you come down on the debate over whether the statement about God was a later addition or part of the original text.

  48. “I like Ecclesiastes. It says there is no heaven and hell and tells us to live for today, because tomorrow we die.”

    “Didn’t the Bible take that sentiment from an earlier, pre-Judaism religion? Epic of Gilgamesh, maybe?”

    Actually, that was the original Jewish concept. The Jews were later influenced by Persian Zororastrianism with its concept of an afterlife and a Judgement Day and an evil opponent of God.

  49. highnumber,

    I can’t read Hebrew. I am thinking about learning Akkadian though.

  50. Grotius,

    “Consider that according to the poll over 20% of the American populace and over 30% of the European Union’s populace (as of 2001) apparently think that the Sun revolves around the Earth.”

    I’d say a more likely explanation is that they don’t realize that astrology postulates the sun revolving around the earth, and are simply assuming a scientific foundation.

  51. joe,

    What?

    Anyway, how do you explain the Catholic geocentrists?

  52. Let’s not make too much of this. Believers & non-believers alike could answer such a poll to identify or characterize Holy Bible without necessarily believing it. Asked about Mickey Mouse or Superman, I could say all sorts of things about them that to an observer might suggest I think they’re real. Why can’t Holy Bible be “that book inspired or written by God” the same way Sherlock Holmes is “that guy Dr. Watson wrote about”, or that there’s a book named Travels by Lemuel Gulliver?

  53. Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe you need to associate with a broader class of people. Or maybe you know more creationists than you think.

    I am not saying that Creationism doesn’t exist… I am saying that it is probably far far less than the Gallop polls say. I have been to at least half of the U.S. states… I have lived most of my life in the U.S… I have met all kinds of people… if I haven’t met one single creationist (I met ID people, but never a “the earth is 6000 years old” creationist), then my common sense meter has to go off. The reality I have experienced is so fundamentally different from what they are telling me, that I just can’t blindly accept what they say.

    Polls like this are wrong all the time when they are trying to poll to see what candidate is going to win the election. Why can’t they be wrong when they are polling about creationism?

  54. robc — That’s a good start for the Libertarian Bible.

    Here’s another selection:

    It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

    After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

    His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

    [Same thing happens with the man entrusted with 2 talents.]

    Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

    His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

    — Matthew 25:14-30

  55. mediageek,

    Yeah, but MC Hawking is no James Burke.

  56. Grotius,

    “What?”

    You assumed that expressions of belief in the scientific validity of astrology indicate a belief in a geocentric universe. I suspect that it is more likely that most people who express a belief in astrology’s scientific legitimacy don’t realize that it assumes that the sun revolves around the earth.

    “Anyway, how do you explain the Catholic geocentrists?”

    They’re fringe loonies, much less common than casual believers in astrology.

  57. joe,

    You assumed that expressions of belief in the scientific validity of astrology indicate a belief in a geocentric universe.

    Actually, I didn’t. The question on astrology and the questions on scientific knowledge were from two seperate surveys. I don’t know what you are talking about, or how you made this connection, but the one has nothing to do with the other – except that it is clear that European publics believe in wacky crap at about the same level as American publics do.

  58. Ah, my bad. I misunderstood.

  59. “only 42 percent of those surveyed thought that economics was scientific.”

    The other 58% didn’t know much about economics…

    ;^)

    http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2004/07/is_economics_a_.html

    “Is economics a science?

    Yes, says the Royal Society, the most prestigious scientific body in the world; no, says Cambridge, the UK’s leading science university which still considers it part of the arts.”

  60. joe,

    That’s ok.

    OT:

    I’m pretty happy with this pre-made interlocking crown moulding I’m putting up right now.

  61. jp,

    Thats a good one. I consider that more sound financial advice than specifically libertarian though.

    Then there is 1 Timothy 5:23, which is never covered at my Baptist church, for some reason:

    Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

  62. Anyone want to wager the percentage is even higher for both sets among elected officials (at least if you ask them)?

    I suspect that there are many more atheists and agnostics than these polls show.

    Just as the example that bzial gave at 10:32am belief is often the default position for Americans who don’t think much about it.

    I also suspect that there are a lot more atheists and agnostics in public office than the one who declared himself to be one not so long ago. For the power hungry religion is something to keep the people in their place.

  63. … with specialty Bibles available for myriad “niche” audiences, from motorcycle riders to campers, brides and archaeologists.

    That one comes with the standard disclaimer: This is a work of fiction…

  64. Seventy-eight percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats say the Bible is “totally accurate in all of its teachings,”

    And this is STILL the most successful country in the history of the world. What does that tell you?

  65. The Wash Times reports on a new series of polls by Gallup that document whether Americans believe the Bible is the literal, inerrant word of God (31 percent), “the inspired word of God” (47 percent), or “a book of ancient fables, history and ‘moral precepts’ recorded by man” (17 percent).

    And the other 5%?

  66. And the other 5%?

    Toilet paper during an emergency or a paper shortage, perhaps?

  67. Dessert topping and/or floorwax?

  68. Chris S.
    Rolling papers.

  69. I am learning to read Hebrew so I can read the Tennach in the original and inspired language.

    For a pun lover like me, Hebrew is a blast.

  70. “And this is STILL the most successful country in the history of the world. What does that tell you?”

    that religious beliefs and day-to-day operations are often kept separate, and that most of what civil society finds “scary” about religion are people who take their beliefs so seriously they heavily impact their day-to-day lives?

    at least that’s my first guess.

  71. Rex Rhino says: “I find these polls to be highly suspect. For example, the Gallup poll that said 50% of American believe in Creationism… I have never met a single literal Creationist in person, EVER, despite living all but 7 years of my life in the United States. You would think that if 50% of Americans were Creationists, I would have met at least a single person who would admit they are a creationist.”

    Is that like the time my wife and I were driving into San Francisco for the first time, and we got stuck in traffic in the Castro District, and she said, “We’ve been in the city for an hour now and I haven’t seen a single gay yet.”

    Maybe the many, many creationists you’ve almost certainly met but not recognized as such decided that you weren’t the ideal person to share that POV with.

  72. And it’s not always who you think, or the type of religion you think. I’ve known highly educated New Age type thinkers who didn’t believe in biologic evolution.

  73. “It is interesting to note, however, that 10 percent of those with no religious identification still believe the Bible is literally the word of God … ”

    I know one of these. She believes the Bible is to be taken literally. She also believes that all organized religions are flawed and have errors in them, so the best thing is to get all your religious information directly from the Bible, and stay out of the churches. The term for such people is “Biblical Christian.” (Not all are literalists, though.)

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