According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 78 percent of all Americans say that the Bible is the “word of God,” and almost half of those believe that, as such, “it is to be taken literally, word for word.”

Polling data from the Barna Group indicate that nearly half of all Americans agree that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings” (88 percent of all “born-again” Christians believe the same), and the Gallup Poll finds that 65 percent of all Americans believe that the Bible “answers all or most of the basic questions of life.”


Less than half of all adult Americans can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis, in Hebrew Bereshit) or the four Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). More than 80 percent of born-again or evangelical Christians believe that “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse. (It is not.)

Biblical scholar and author Timothy Beal suspects that many would also say that “The Serenity Prayer” and the “Footprints in the Sand” parable are in there somewhere.

More than half of graduating high school seniors guess that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife, and one in ten adults believes that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. (Those two must’ve been multiple-choice questions.)

Almost two-thirds of Americans can’t name at least five of the Ten Commandments. Some of these people, moreover, are outspoken promoters of them. Georgia representative Lynn Westmoreland, cosponsor of a bill to display the Ten Commandments in the chambers of the House of Representatives and Senate, could remember only three when Stephen Colbert asked him to recite them on The Colbert Report.


— Source: Timothy Beal. The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book