Only 24 percent of U.S. adults now affirm the Bible as the “actual Word of God to be taken literally,” according to Gallup.
This is an all-time low since the organization began tracking perceptions of the Bible in 1976 and continues a steady decline in those affirming this view.
By contrast, the percentage of respondents who affirm the Bible as the “inspired Word of God, not all taken literally” has remained steady.
Currently 47 percent hold this view, the same as in 2012 and only down slightly from a high of 51 percent in 2007. Over the survey’s 40-year history, an average of 47.7 percent of respondents have affirmed this position.
The percentage of U.S. adults affirming the view that the Bible is “fables, history [and] moral precepts recorded by man” has steadily risen from 13 percent in 1976 to 26 percent today.
Those who say religion is very important in their lives are the most likely grouping to affirm the Bible as the actual Word of God (41 percent), with 50 percent affirming it as inspired and only 7 percent believing it to be fables.
By contrast, those who say religion is somewhat important in their lives are most likely to affirm the Bible as the inspired Word of God (66 percent), with 17 percent saying it is filled with fables and 13 percent believing it to be the actual Word of God.
Those for whom religion is unimportant in their lives are most likely to say the Bible is a book of fables (76 percent), with 20 percent saying it is inspired and 2 percent the actual Word of God.
“As a whole, more Christians take the Bible literally than say it is a book of stories and history recorded by man,” Gallup commented. “However, within the broad group of Christians, Protestants (including those who generically refer to themselves as ‘Christian’) lean toward the literalist view, while Catholics divide evenly between seeing the Bible as the literal word of God and saying it is a book of stories. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those with no religious affiliation fall into the skeptics’ camp.”
The full survey results are available here.