New Gallup poll reveals stunning news that many Christians don’t know WTF they’re talking about

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Hello all; Dave here! In a Gallup poll published today, the world was shocked to find out that a whopping 3 out of every 10 self-identifying Christians in the United States believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. Even more shockingly, according to Bill Keller Ministries, a Christian group, statistical research shows that less than 10% of Christians have read the bible (thanks, JT Eberhard).

Oh, wait. That’s not news at all. In fact the number is a bit lower than it was in the ’80s, according to the article from Gallup. Also not surprisingly, there is an inverse correlation between biblical literalism and highest level of education achieved, as well as between biblical literalism and income, and a positive correlation between biblical literalism and conservatism/Republicanism.

I acknowledge that a few percent of Christians have actually read it, and a negligible number have even read it in its “original” Greek & Hebrew. I place “original” in quotation marks because the earliest fragment we have of any part of the New Testament dates to approximately 100 years after the events it claims to describe, and is itself a fragment of a copy; the earliest complete copy we have of the New Testament dates to about 300 years ex post facto. This is one area where Muslims really have it together over & above Christians – technically, it’s not the Qur’an if it’s been translated into a different language. If you buy an English copy, what you’re reading is “A Translation of the Qur’an,” not the Qur’an. I applaud the founders of Islam for their forethought in attempting to keep its source documents pure, even though we don’t have the originals of those, either.

Anyway, I think it’s fair to say that, given that over 90% of Christians haven’t read the Bible, that 50% of Americans can’t name even one of the four Gospels (NPR, Feb. 8, 2008), 50% of Americans don’t know that Genesis is the first book of the Bible (ibid), etc, you guys, as I said, don’t know WTF you’re talking about.

So, if I may, please allow me to show you a sampling of why, exactly, the Bible simply and utterly cannot be the literal word of your god.

You may have seen this poster before. If not, it’s worth checking out. You can print your own copy free here (thanks, Sam Harris!):

http://www.project-reason.org/gallery3/image/105/

I also offer this lovely video by NonStampCollector:

Christians, as I stated publicly during my debate last April with Brother Jed Smock, I encourage you to read the Bible. Reading the Bible for the first time is what got me started on the path of realizing that it contains a lot of lies that my pastors never bothered to mention during Bible study or worship services. It’s not that they were lying, or even intentionally deceiving me; one full-time pastor I know, who currently presides over a congregation of about 1,500 people, admitted to me that he had never actually read the Bible cover-to-cover himself! It’s just ignorance, and the way to overcome ignorance is with education.

Read the Bible. Read the Book of Mormon. Read the Qur’an. The more you read, the more you’ll see, like I did, that they have striking similarities: They all describe impossible events that any objective observer would rightfully call fantastic and mythological. You start to realize that they’re all man-made.

If you believe the Bible is true, statistics clearly demonstrate that it’s probably because you’ve never read it and don’t know WTF you’re talking about.

As a Christian, you might know that humility is a value Christians hold. If you are rightfully humble, understand that you are in no position to ascertain whether it’s true or not if you’ve never even read it.

Even if you do go and read it, after you’ve read it, if you value humility, be honest enough to admit that just reading the book does not give you all the knowledge you need to be able to tell if the contents are factually correct or not.

The Bible describes historical events, among other things. If you don’t also study the secular history of the origins of the books, you are in no position to say whether it’s true even after reading it, in the same way that I’m in no position to say whether a textbook on hematology is factually correct after simply reading it cover-to-cover. Hematology isn’t my field, and aside from a lecture on anemia to which a friend took me once, I don’t know a lick about it. I’m comfortable enough with my lack of knowledge on the subject, and my honest enough about my ignorance, to say that.

In my Saturday post, I will post a video about the history of the Bible as a follow-up to this.

Until next time! Your feedback is appreciated; please leave me a comment in the comments section below.

- Dave

Dave Muscato is Vice President of MU SASHA. He is a junior at Mizzou majoring in economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, and posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com.

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22 thoughts on “New Gallup poll reveals stunning news that many Christians don’t know WTF they’re talking about

  1. Dave, brilliant post, and I couldn’t agree more! It’s no coincidence that some of the top secular biblical scholars are former evangelicals who studied it the most! They discovered too much about the Bible’s origins, errors, deliberate alterations, outright forgeries – in short, its fallible human nature – to continue taking it seriously as divine scripture. As theologian Wilhem Wrede said, “Facts are sometimes the most radical critics of all.”

    -David Fitzgerald
    Director, The Atheist Film Festival
    Author of NAILED: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All

  2. Dave:
    You are, of course, completely and totally correct. I attended a Southern Baptist Bible college on a full scholarship, was a member of a touring evangelistic team, was a licensed (but not ordained) minister and it was during my classes at the Bible college where I began reading some of the early Greek writings and realized the mistranslations (which are now so commonly known), the errors in geography, the textual incompatibilities and the outright HORROR of the God of the Old Testament (which is still read/believed by Christians) made the book as man-made as any I’d read – and after reading it through several times, noting with increasing dismay the errors that compounded with each reading ….. I walked away from not only Christianity, but all the religions. My motto now, emblazoned on many a tee shirt for others to see is, “Reliance on Ancient Mythologies is Degrading to the Rational Mind.”

    Most Christians are spoon-fed their religion and have no idea what their “holy” book actually says. And the ones who are the worst offenders are the dear “little old ladies” who teach Sunday School and HAVEN’T THE FOGGIEST IDEA WHAT THEIR HOLY BOOK IS ALL ABOUT.

    So, keep on telling it like it really is. I’ve now been an atheist for over forty years, and haven’t found the need, or desire, to look back even once.

    Gene

  3. Dave, a poster full of contradictions that for the most part can be explained reasonably is not definitive proof that “the Bible simply and utterly cannot be the literal word” of God. In fact, these petty lists that could be answered with minimal research or know-how make it appear that you guys are more “desperate” to prove your case.

    I have read it entirely multiple times, much of it in Greek in Hebrew, I study the history, the criticisms, etc., and I still believe.

  4. Incidentally, I have a bachelor’s and am working on my post grad degree.

    Your fact is wrong. According to the poll, it is 4 in 10 self professing protestant Christians that are literalists. Furthermore, the poll is skewed somewhat based on the definitions. The larger category is that the Bible is inspired, but not every passage should be taken literally.

    I believe that the entire Bible is the word of God, but not necessarily dictated. And not every passage should be taken literally, but as it is intended. Poetry should be taken as poetry, history as history, etc.

    When you combine those two categories, those who believe that the Bible is the word of God is 90%.

    Furthermore, almost everyone recognizes that what we are reading is a “translation” and not the actual text…

    • I have a few questions about your comments.

      Presumably you believe that your god is real, but gods of other religions aren’t. Why is that?

      Why do you believe that the Bible is “the word of [that] God”?

      Which books are we talking about exactly? And within those books, which versions of those books? How did you settle on those specific versions of those specific books? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_apocrypha

      Thanks!

      - Dave

  5. I don’t find it shocking. I know many people that have been saved for years and barely read the Book. I was recently given the opportunity to preach and preached “Study to shew thyself approved” (2 Tim 2:15) partly because it’s sickening watching secularists that can quote more Scripture than a “Bible believer” or that many can’t explain why they are what they are.

    I was originally getting my bachelor’s degree in engineering but was called to preach so I switched to general studies (business, religious studies, and philosophy) in order to graduate sooner so I can move on.

    Perhaps why some of these Bible believers don’t continue on in their education is because we are commanded to “Labour not for the meat which perisheth” (John 6:27). For those of us called to preach the gospel, a higher education isn’t really something needed, but rather just studying the Word of God. A higher education could be needed for a secular job of course, and if that is needed, it is not waste at all. Also perhaps the fact that Bible believers according to this poll have lower incomes is a result of realizing that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10).

    Unlike others, the more I read the Book, the more I believe it. The more I study it, the more it blows my mind. I’ve seen many of these contradictions before and many can be explained by “Rightly dividing” (2 Tim 2:15), especially any of the ones regarding different salvations in different dispensations (of course, some would call me a heretic for saying such a thing, but I stand before God). Others can be explained just by the wording. There have been times where I think I find a contradiction myself, and then it ends up either addressing an entire different audience, event, or context. Some of those in the video I could not explain immediately but I’m sure with some study would get cleared up as I’ve seen in times past. I must say though, the video was put together well. Usually when I see “contradiction” stuff (not that I really look that far into it) the context is skewed or it is using a loose translation or some form of carelessness.

    Regarding your questions to Christian, I will answer for myself in case you are interested. I believe God is real initially because I believe in morality and I believe something had to give humans a true sense of morality since we are not infallible (yes, I understand there are more steps before concluding that, that is just the shortened version). I believe in the Trinity over other gods partly because I see a lot of things done in threes (mind, body soul; sun, moon, earth; 3 types of rays from the sun, etc). When one gets saved (and I mean born again, not put in a baptismal pool) they are going to believe in the One that saved them, not other gods.

    I believe the Bible is the word of God because of the fulfilled prophecies, the willingness of Christ’s followers to die martyr’s deaths, the conversion of Paul, as I study more, it makes more sense to me, and of course because I am saved, I believe it. Of course one that has never been born again does not understand that because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).

    I believe the 66 canonized books as contained in the King James Bible, which stems from the Masoretic Text (Hebrew) and Textus Receptus (Greek). Going into an explanation for that conclusion would be far too exhausting at this point, however I can point you to a good resource for defense of the KJB and the TR http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Textus_Receptus. Also the Textus Receptus facebook page is pretty good. The guy is very sharp. I believed the KJB before I ever ran into these sources, partly because of prior evidence, but also by being convicted about it.

    Thank you for the article and video Dave. I’ll try to check up on this again soon, although I generally do not get into long discussions online because they generally do not produce a lot of fruit. I figured I would put in my two cents, because I differ with a lot of “mainstream” Christians and many people have found my beliefs interesting.

    -Jeff

    So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

    • Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I would like your response to this. You wrote…

      “I believe God is real initially because I believe in morality and I believe something had to give humans a true sense of morality since we are not infallible (yes, I understand there are more steps before concluding that, that is just the shortened version).”

      I am be very interested to hear your “long form” version of that. This is quite specifically my field of study: I study how morality evolved in humans and other cooperative species. I look forward to reading your reply!

      Best,
      Dave

  6. Pingback: Where did the Bible come from? « The Official MU SASHA Blog, Updated Daily

  7. Right on, Dave. Some of this deals with just the idea of evolution, morals, the existence of God. I’m sure it can be picked apart, but I feel it has a decent order to it, let me know what you think.

    If Evolution (E) is true, what separates us from other species?
    The idea of “a soul” is at best a made up thought to claim individuality (I)
    Non human animals have individual personalities (consider dogs, cats, primates, horses)
    How is human (I) different than that of non humans?
    It is simply the result of evolutionary processes.
    There is no mark that makes humans higher or lower in regards to animals.
    We are simply animals that are a result of (E)
    If we are animals, we have no more or no less moral obligation than any other species.
    Who/what would hold us accountable and by what measure?
    If we, ourselves are to keep humans accountable for actions, who decides what is moral?
    After all, we are fallible.
    How are we to know the correct action?
    We cannot know because our judgments/opinions are skewed and flawed through environmental factors and biological factors.
    It cannot be based off of results, because sometimes one action has a positive (relatively speaking) result and other times the same action has a negative result.
    So, because we are no different than animals, we cannot know moral absolutes, we are not responsible for our actions (at least any differently than an animal would be responsible).
    If we are responsible, who would we answer to? If to humans, why? They are fallible and are the result of (E).
    But we do have morals, we do have conscience, there truly is a sense of what is right and what is wrong.
    If there is right and there is wrong, there is moral truth.
    Where does it come from?
    If there is moral truth, it cannot come from humans because of our fallibility.
    However, moral truths must come from a moral agent, an infallible one at that.
    That’s God.
    If God exists, morality is a result.
    If He does not exist, there are no moral truths, our sense of evil does not exist.
    Things are relative at best.
    But we know slavery, hate, racism, murder, torture, etc are wrong, not just relatively wrong.
    They are only wrong if there is absolute moral truth (which must have a source to define it)
    So if morality (good) and immorality (evil) exist, God, the infallible moral agent exists necessarily.
    Otherwise, we are ultimately products of chance, not responsible for our actions.
    So are we products of chance? Are we responsible for our actions?

    That’s kind of where I picked up from the last time I really thought about all this stuff. One thing I am curious about, because I don’t know what my answer would be if I believed in evolution…but if humans are the result of evolution as is every other creature (or plant for that matter), do we have the right to consume other creatures? Why or why not? Part of me would want to say of course, who would we answer to, but the other part says no, they are on the same playing field as us. Just a thought I think is interesting. Thanks for your feedback and time.

    -Jeff

    As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. Ecclesiastes 5:15

    • Howdy, Jeff! Haven’t seen you in a while. I don’t mean to butt in to your guy’s conversation, but I liked your post and can’t help but chime in.
      First my thoughts your question concerning what separates humans from other species and/or animals if evolution is, in fact, true. The biological answer is: virtually nothing. Homo sapiens are unequivocally an animal. Further, this is true independent of whether humans evolved or were created. We have animalian genes (specifically HOX genes [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hox_gene]), eukaryotic animalian cells, occluding cellular junctions, a blastula stage, and discrete germ layers. These traits define the Kingdom Animalia; all animals have them, and only animals have them. The so called “basal” animals, such as sea sponges and placozoans, have much reduced or simplified variations on the animal theme, just as an evolutionary framework would predict.
      The subtle gradations between living species have no breaks: there is an unbroken chain of ancestry reaching back from modern humans to Australopiths to the first bacteria. An objective line partitioning humans and non-humans cannot be drawn. Morality, just the previously listed traits, has emerged gradually and has clear analogs in nature (see http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/102661 and http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/10022981.html for some secondary analysis of this topic).
      Our moral obligations to other living creatures, including people, are not inherent in our biology, at least not in the same way as a Hox gene. Morality is a tool humans use to look at the world; it is a window. Just like windows, moral frameworks are varied, often colorful, and sometimes lack clarity. But no matter the type of window, the actual world beyond is the same. The many different caprices of ethics, as they vary through time and place, are, again, are just what would be expected of an errant and evolved system.
      The argument you presented doesn’t fully explore the relationship between evolution and divine morality. Are they mutually exclusive? Does the truth of one necessarily disprove the other? I don’t think the given argument logically precludes a world where both evolution is true AND morals are given to humans by a divine source (i.e. humans evolved just like every other creature, but were slowly gifted insight and reason). I personally think the latter scenario lacks the economy of a purely evolutionary explanation for morals, but it does encompass and explain nearly the whole of your unanswered premises.
      So, to answer your last question, I don’t believe we have a RIGHT to eat animals, per say, but more of a liberty in need of responsible exercising. In a way we are, as you say, on the same playing field. Do we think it immoral when an animal kills and consumes a human? Well, no. We can’t exactly give a person-eating mountain lion a fair trial (moreover, what trial lawyer would willingly represent a dangerous cat pro bono?). Our human biology affords us the ability to choose, and that choice is the essence of morality.

      -James

  8. Jeff, I checked our comment log to see if it’s here but needed to be moderated, but it’s not there either. Sorry! If you’d like to reiterate, I’d love to hear what you have to say! Best, Dave

  9. Brother Jed is still alive? The guy that admitted in front of 100s of people that he saw Jesus when he was trippin’ on LSD? The guy that preached to me at Kent State in 82? The guy that said all of us males were homosexuals cause we like to masturbate (something about liking the feel of a long, erect penis in our hands), and then proclaimed that after homosexuality comes bestiality, to which I responded with vulgar gestures while I had imaginary sex with his German Shepherd. After that, the boyfriend of the young lady that Jed called a whore for wearing shorts on a hot day threatened to pound Jed into the Ground. Jed was then arrested for starting a riot (something the officials at Kent Sate take a dim view of for some unknown reason) I never laffed so hard in my life. However, I had a difficult time living down the whole wanting to have sex with Brother Jed’s dog thing!!!

  10. Hey James,
    Regarding what you said in your second paragraph about animal genes, are you saying that the fact that we are almost identical biologically to animals is expected according to evolution? Would not it likewise be expected in an intelligent design framework? Sorry if I misunderstood your statement. So then since these types of genes are only in animals, why would this be predicted and why would they not be in plants as well? (As you may recall, I’m not very good with science).
    “The subtle gradations between living species have no breaks: there is an unbroken chain of ancestry reaching back from modern humans to Australopiths to the first bacteria.” How do you know this? I don’t think this is something that can be proven, rather something that can be theorized.
    “The many different caprices of ethics, as they vary through time and place, are, again, are just what would be expected of an errant and evolved system.” I think this is just as likely even if biological evolution is not true. It is expected regardless. The things people value over time changes, however there are certain things that are constant (wrong to murder, steal, etc).
    I would lean to evolution and divine morality being mutually exclusive. I don’t think that if humans evolved and God existed that He would at some point instill morality, at least in a much greater sense than in other animals. That is just a personal thought.
    So my I guess my question that I still hold to is that since we are on the same playing field, what separates eating a human verses eating a cow? Is there a difference? If one is wrong and the other is not, why is that? And why should it be wrong? Or are neither wrong? Thanks guys.

    -Jeff

    Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

    • Howdy Jeff,

      I’m not saying humans are almost identical to animals; I’m saying we ARE animals. Humans are not separate from the animal kingdom, we’re part of it. There is no way of describing a system of classification for all animals that excludes humans.

      The Hox gene in an (admittedly obscure) example of a synapomorphy; basically, it’s an evolved trait that all species in a taxonomic group have, while all species outside of that group lack. A less obscure example would be primate finger nails; the only species on the planet that have (or ever had) fingernails are simiiform primates. The most recent common ancestor of all simians had fingernails, and all the species that descend from it do as well. This is predicted by evolution. If all life was created, there is no particular reason why only primates should have fingernails, or all animals have Hox genes. Fingernails and Hox genes are useful, but there are many other biological methods for accomplishing their function. Plants don’t have Hox genes because, according to evolution, their ancestors never developed them (they use a different system for growth). If we were to discover a plant with a full set of animal Hox genes, that would immediately present a nearly insuperable challenge to evolution.

      There is no reason for a creator to shape humans to be biologically identical to animals in every way unless s/he wanted scientists to conclude that we are animals. But why should we expect a creator to be deceptive in this way? Surely there are some honest and devoted religious people who accept evolution because they are following the evidence, but are still in error for using the faculties of reason the creator gave them.

      ““The subtle gradations between living species have no breaks: there is an unbroken chain of ancestry reaching back from modern humans to Australopiths to the first bacteria.” How do you know this? I don’t think this is something that can be proven, rather something that can be theorized.”
      My sentence here should have started with “According to evolution…” I certainly cannot prove evolution in an epistemological sense, just as I cannot prove germ theory or the atomic theory. I’m only trying to follow the evidence. As I have said before, accepting an untrue scientific idea has no utility for me.

      ““The many different caprices of ethics, as they vary through time and place, are, again, are just what would be expected of an errant and evolved system.” I think this is just as likely even if biological evolution is not true.”
      I agree. It is consistent with the truth of evolution, but does not prove it.

      As for the question of eating animals, this is a philosophical question that even SASHA hasn’t reached a formal conclusion on, so I won’t speak for everyone. I can see merit on both sides. Human biology enables us to consume other animals for sustenance, as evidenced by our general preference for the taste of cooked meat, our relatively short and simple digestive system, suite of gut flora, teeth, inability to synthesize vitiman
      B12 (a nutrient found only in animals), and behavior. This can be interpreted to mean that eating other animals is ‘natural.’ However, a diet of pure meat is usually very unhealthy (unless a large part of it is fish, like the Inuit diet). Finding enough meat to sustainably feed a population of humans is difficult, even with agriculture. And all the traits I listed supporting human carnivory also function in herbivory: we’re omnivores.
      The act of eating itself is amoral; it is not inherently right or wrong. But I also think that animals are fascinating and should not be treated like food machines. A willingness to be cruel to non-humans, in my opinion, is an ignominious trait. I believe humans are obligated to respect all other life. That obligation is, in part, because we are on the same playing field (i.e. Earth), but it also stems from the fact that humans are more-or-less rational agents able to cause preventable suffering.

      Basically, your question is excellent and I don’t have a good answer.

      -James

  11. Hi Dave,

    I came across your post while searching for current research on Bible reading.

    I didn’t find the Bill Keller research. Would you provide a link?

    I have read the Bible a number of times, and believe it is both literal and God-breathed. The more I read it,the more I excited I am as I see the connections. To me, it takes more faith to disbelieve than to believe.

    I agree that I would like to see more people read the Bible. Some will agree with you in that they are unable to accept the miraculous. But others will find the Author in the reading, and like me, grow closer to Him every time they read it.

    Respectfully,

    Valerie

  12. Dave, I’m curious as to whats your point??? And have you ever read the bible before? because its like you said. the only way to overcome ignorance is education. if you indeed have not read the bible cover to cover and found it to be completely “false truth” then you are just like the christians you spoke about in the aspect of speaking about things you yourself do not know because of the same reason you claim against christians…. i do agree with you on the point that if speaking from the Bible on Biblical prophesy then one should know the historical facts to go with it. the Bible has been around for how long? and still people are discovering new things from it and learning… do all christians read their Bibles?? sadly no they don’t.. Many think just going to church and hearing from a paster is good enough once a week if they even do that…. but this is all surface talk your bringing up.. the real issue for people, the reason for all the debates and “corrections” and everything else is because people are questioning the character of God. is He in fact real? and if so what exactly is a God and can we trust Him and what He claims to be? maybe instead of trying to prove something or someone wrong based why don’t you try making a video proving whats right. other wise your no better then the people you are criticizing. and if you indeed found that what you say is right i think you should dig a little deeper. cause thats a lot of history I’m sure you yourself have not covered…
    , Thanks

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