(Gallup / Worthy News)– Twenty-eight percent of Americans believe the Bible is the actual word of God and that it should be taken literally. This is somewhat below the 38% to 40% seen in the late 1970s, and near the all-time low of 27% reached in 2001 and 2009. But about half of Americans continue to say the Bible is the inspired word of God, not to be taken literally — meaning a combined 75% believe the Bible is in some way connected to God. 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% in 1976.
The latest results are from Gallup's 2014 update of its annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 8-11.
Fittingly, overall acceptance of the Bible as being divinely written or inspired closely approximates the proportion of Americans identifying themselves as Christian: 76% in Gallup's 2013 religion aggregate. Meanwhile, the 21% viewing the Bible in secular terms nearly matches the combined 22% who identify with another religion or no religion.
The Bible is the central text in Christianity, the dominant religion in the U.S., and parts of it are also relevant to followers of Judaism and Islam, thus giving it enormous cultural significance. Despite some evidence that Americans are becoming more detached from formal religion, the vast majority of Christians, and therefore of Americans, still view the Bible as God's word. The 28% adhering to biblical literalism in the trend question is down about 10 percentage points since the late 1970s. But that decline mainly occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. Ever since, the figure has varied between 27% and 34%, with the current 28% on the low end of that range.