A recent Gallup poll has indicated that Americans who believe that the Bible is a book of fables now outnumber those who believe that the book is the literal Word of God.
The survey results, released by Gallup on Monday, showed that 24 percent believe the Bible is "the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word," while 26 percent view the Scriptures as "a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man."
The poll also revealed that about half of Americans fall between skepticism and literalism, saying the Bible is the inspired word of God, but not all of it should be taken literally.
The survey, which was conducted on May 3–7 with 1,011 adult respondents, found that young adults, aged 18 to 49, tend to be more skeptical about the Bible, with only 12 percent believing that it is the literal Word of God. The belief in the Bible as God's actual word is highest among 50 to 64-year-olds at 31 percent.
Gallup noted that nonwhites, adults aged 50 and older, and adults without a college education tend to lean towards the belief that the Bible is the actual word of God. On the other hand, men, whites, college graduates, adults aged 18 to 29 and those aged 30 to 49 lean toward the other direction.
Protestants, including those who generically refer to themselves as "Christian," lean toward the literalist view, while Catholics are evenly divided between seeing the Bible as God's actual word and viewing it as a book of stories.
Gallup noted that this was the first time that biblical literalism has not surpassed biblical skepticism.
Almost 40 percent of Americans have considered the Bible as the literal word of God between the mid-1970s through 1984, but the number has been declining ever since. The decrease corresponds to the shrinking percentage of self-identified Christians in the U.S.
During that period, the people who believe that the Bible contained mere stories has doubled, with much of the change occurring in the past three years, according to Gallup.
Despite the decline, a vast majority of Americans still consider the Scriptures as a holy document, with 71 percent believing that it is at least God-inspired if not God's own words.