The Democrats’ “God problem”

Here’s some profoundly depressing news from an ABC News Poll (via Polling Report).

“I’m going to ask about a few stories in the Bible. [See below.] Do you think that’s literally true, meaning it happened that way word-for-word; or do you think it’s meant as a lesson, but not to be taken literally?”

“The story of Noah and the ark in which it rained for 40 days and nights, the entire world was flooded, and only Noah, his family and the animals on their ark survived.”

Literally True 60%

Not Literally True 33%

No Opinion 7%

“The creation story in which the world was created in six days.”

Literally True 61%

Not Literally True 30%

No Opinion 8%

“The story about Moses parting the Red Sea so the Jews could escape from Egypt.”

Literally True 64%

Not Literally True 28%

No Opinion 8%

This should come as no surprise to students of American culture, but I submit that it is, in a larger sense, truly astounding and frightening.

You have to be pretty damned post-modern to think that the opinion that those particular Biblical stories are literally true is anything but simply false.

There are, of course, two different creation stories and two different Noah stories in Genesis, and they conflict (about what happened on which day of creation, and about whether Noah had two pairs or seven pairs of the kosher animals). So the stories can’t be “literally” true as a purely logical matter, even putting aside their physical impossibility.

The story about the Red Sea could be literally true — it’s not self-contradictory — but it’s not in the Bible. The Red Sea isn’t actually on the line of march from Egypt to Sinai, and the Hebrew says a “reed sea” — i.e., a marsh, which could well be flooded at high tide and dry a low tide.

Now, to be fair, there’s no particular reason for the average voter to know about the mistranslation in Exodus, or to consult a map to notice that the Red Sea is in the wrong place. But the contradictions in Genesis are right there on the page, for anyone who actually reads the text to see.

Why do I belabor this? Because the Democratic party, as has been noted, has a “God problem.” It is dominated by people who don’t believe the Bible stories are literally true. The Republican party is dominated by people who do so believe, plus people who are willing to pretend to so believe to get votes.

The fact that a very clear majority of the citizens believe palpable nonsense — or, perhaps, think it appropriate to pretend to pollsters that they believe palpable nonsense — is a major problem not only for the actual Democrats, but for any possible party devoted to respecting the difference between truth and error.

[The good news, of a sort: Only 8% think that “all Jews today bear responsibility for the death of Jesus.”]

Update And of course the Bible doesn’t say that Moses parted anything at all.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

3 thoughts on “The Democrats’ “God problem””

  1. The Democrats do not have a 'God problem'

    Mark A. R. Kleiman comments on The Democrats' "God problem", illustrated by the poll below:
    "I'm going to ask about a few stories in the Bible. [See below.] Do you

  2. Cotton Mather should be rolling in his grave

    Here is the exact wording of an ABC News PrimeTime
    Poll, taken last week:
    I’m going to ask about a few stories in the Bible…. The story about
    Moses parting the Red Sea so the Jews could escape from Egypt. Do
    you think that’s literally

Comments are closed.