Most Americans Believe Jesus Rose from Dead, David Killed Goliath Literally

A majority of Americans believe in God's power and miracles, according to a new survey.

Furthermore, most accept well-known Bible stories as literal truth, including the biblical account of Jesus Christ rising from the dead, The Barna Group found.

Three out of four adults (75 percent) said they interpreted the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Christ as literal truth. An earlier study also found that 75 percent of Americans who do not identify as born-again Christians believe Jesus literally resurrected, according to the Center for Missional Research of the North American Mission Board – the Southern Baptist Convention's domestic mission agency.

Although the more highly educated respondents were less likely to take the story literally, two-thirds (68 percent) of college graduates said they believe the resurrection is literally true, The Barna Group showed.

Non-mainline Protestants were more likely to accept the resurrection as fact (95 percent) compared to mainline Protestants (83 percent) and Catholics (82 percent).

Two-thirds of adults (65 percent) also deemed the account of prophet Daniel surviving in the lion's den as literally true. Catholics were less likely to take this biblical account at face value with only 51 percent interpreting it as literally true.

When surveyed about Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, two out of three (64 percent) Americans took a literal view of the story. Four out of five Protestants (79 percent) and three out of five Catholics (60 percent) embrace a literal interpretation of the Red Sea account.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) accept the story of David and Goliath as literal truth. While 86 percent of non-mainline Protestants take the story literally, only 68 percent of mainline Protestants and 46 percent of Catholics believe the story happened just as described in the Bible.

Mainline Protestants are those associated with the American Baptist, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Presbyterian Church in the USA denominations, according to The Barna Group.

"Not only do most Americans believe in the existence of God, but they believe in His power and in the miracles He performs," said researcher George Barna, who directed the study. "Holding back the seas, walking on water, rising from the dead, surviving in a lion cage, and killing a skilled and armed warrior with a sling shot are examples of God doing extraordinary things in the lives of ordinary people. These and other Bible stories inspire people to believe that their personal trust in that powerful God is warranted. Although some people may dismiss such writings as fairy tales for children, the data indicate that the typical American has adopted these accounts as the foundation of a valued faith in God."

Fewer Americans, meanwhile, embraced the account of Apostle Peter walking on water as literally true. Overall, 60 percent of adults interpret it as literal truth. And 75 percent of all Protestants, 53 percent of Catholics believe the story is literally accurate.

Regarding the story of Creation, which has become increasingly challenged in schools, 60 percent of adults believe God created the universe in six days. The more highly educated Americans were much less likely to believe the creation account as literally true. While 73 percent of adults who did not attend college believe this story is literally accurate, only 38 percent of college graduates hold that view. Also, 74 percent of Protestants have a literal interpretation of creation compared to only 52 percent of Catholics.

Among ethnic groups, blacks were most likely to interpret biblical stories as literal truth.

Barna noted a disconnect between belief and practice.

"While the level of literal acceptance of these Bible stories is nothing short of astonishing given our cultural context, the widespread embrace of these accounts raises questions about the unmistakable gap between belief and behavior," he stated.

"On the one hand we have tens of millions of people who view these narratives as reflections of the reality, the authority and the involvement of God in our lives. On the other hand, a majority of those same people harbor a stubborn indifference toward God and His desire to have intimacy with them. In fact, a minority of the people who believe these stories to be true consistently apply the principles imbedded in these stories within their own lives," Barna continued.

"It seems that millions of Americans believe the Bible content is true, but are not willing to translate those stories into action. Sadly, for many people, the Bible has become a respected but impersonal religious history lesson that stays removed from their life."

Results are based on a nationwide survey conducted in August 2007 among 1,000 adults, age 18 and older.