By Terence P. Jeffrey
(CNSNews.com) - Belief in the Bible hit a 35-year low in the United States in May 2008 when unemployment was at the relatively low level of 5.4 percent, but has begun to rebound over the past three years as unemployment has climbed to over 9 percent, according to separate streams of data published by the Gallup poll and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The simultaneous increase in the unemployment rate and belief in the Bible may be wholly coincidentally--yet, no matter what caused their change of heart, a smaller percentage of Americans today reject the divine origin of the Bible than did in the spring of 2008.
In May 2008, unemployment was at 5.4 percent--lower than it has been in most months over the past 35 years. But belief in the Bible that month hit a 35-year low in the Gallup poll, with a record 22 percent of Americans telling Gallup they believed the Bible was an “ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.”
In the same May 2008 poll, only a combined 76 percent of Americans told Gallup they believed the Bible was either the “actual word of God” to be “taken literally, word for word” or the “inspired word of God” but not necessarily to be taken literally word for word. That 76 percent matched the all-time low in Gallup’s polling for the combined percentage of Americans who said they believed in the Bible in one of the two ways prescribed in Gallup’s survey question.
The one other time in the last 35 years—the span of time Gallup has been polling on this question--that belief in the Bible dropped to 76 percent was in February 2001. In that month, unemployment was at a very low 4.2 percent.
This May—three years after Bible belief hit its all-time low and skepticism its all-time high in Gallup polling, and with unemployment having climbed to 9.1 percent—a combined 79 percent of Americans told Gallup they believe the Bible was the actual or inspired word of God, while only 17 percent said it was a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.
Between Gallup’s May 2008 and May 2011 polls, disbelief in the Bible had declined by 5 points (22 percent to 17 percent), while unemployment, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, had climbed 3.7 points (5.4 percent to 9.1 percent). The maximum margin of error in Gallup’s poll on the Bible, Gallup says, is plus-or-minus 4 points. So the 5-point decline in disbelief in the Bible that the poll has shown over the last three years is larger than the poll’s margin of error.
The February 2001 poll, which like the May 2008 poll showed belief in the Bible at a low of 76 percent, was conducted about seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The next Gallup poll on the Bible, which came in December 2002 (more than a year after the 9/11 attacks), showed that overall belief in the Bible had rebounded to 82 percent. At that time, only 15 percent said they believed the Bible was just a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts. Between February 2001 and December 2002, unemployment had also climbed from 4.2 percent to 6.0 percent.
In the 35 years that Gallup has polled Americans on the question, the apex of belief in the Bible came in late July-early August 1980, when a combined 85 percent said they believed the Bible was either the actual word of God or the inspired word of God, and only 10 percent said they believed the Bible was a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man. At that point, unemployment was 7.8 percent.
The Gallup surveys did not ask respondents if they had recently changed their minds about the nature of the Bible or, if so, why they had changed their minds.
Gallup’s survey question was as follows: “Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the Bible--the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word, the Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, or the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man?”
The table below, drawn from historical data published by Gallup and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (a division of the U.S. Department of Labor), shows the results from each time Gallup has asked the above question and the unemployment rate at that time. From left to right the columns show the date of the poll, the percentage who said the Bible was the actual word of God, the percentage who said it was the inspired word of God, the combined percentage who said it was either the actual or inspired word of God, the percentage who said it was a book of fables, etc., the percentage who said they had no opinion, and the unemployment rate when the poll was taken.
Poll Date Actual Inspired Comb. Fable No Opin. Unemployment
2011 May 5-8 30 49 79 17 3 9.1
2008 Dec 4-7 27 50 77 21 3 7.3
2008 May 8-11 30 46 76 22 3 5.4
2007 Dec 6-9 28 51 79 18 3 5.0
2007 May 10-13 32 45 77 21 4 4.4
2006 May 8-11 28 49 77 19 3 4.6
2005 May 2-5 32 47 79 18 3 5.1
2004 Nov 7-10 34 48 82 15 3 5.4
2002 Dec 9-10 30 52 82 15 3 6.0
2001 Feb 19-21 27 49 76 20 4 4.2
1998 Jun 22-23 33 47 80 17 3 4.5
1993 Jun 18-21 35 48 83 14 3 7.0
1991 Nov 21-23 32 49 81 16 3 7.0
1984 Nov 40 41 81 12 7 7.2
1984 Sep 37 46 83 12 7 7.3
1983 May 37 43 80 11 9 10.1
1981 Dec 11-14 37 42 79 11 -- 8.5
1980 J. 29-Aug 2 40 45 85 10 6 7.8
1978 A.18-May 1 38 45 83 13 6 6.1
1976 Aug 24-27 38 45 83 13 5 7.8Print This Post
(CNSNews.com) – The United States government voiced concern Wednesday about the plight of an Iranian Christian pastor sentenced to death for apostasy. Reports say his appeal to a higher court resulted in a stark choice – disavow the Christian faith or die.
“While Iran’s leaders hypocritically claim to promote tolerance, they continue to detain, imprison, harass, and abuse those who simply wish to worship the faith of their choosing,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
“We join the international community in continuing to call on the Iranian government to respect the fundamental rights of all its citizens and uphold its international commitments to protect them.”
Yosef (Youcef) Nadarkhani, a 32 year-old father and evangelical pastor who embraced Christianity at age 19, was arrested in October 2009, reportedly for objecting to the teaching of Islam to Christian children at Iranian schools. The indictment against him accused him of organizing evangelistic meetings, sharing his faith and inviting others to convert, running a house church and “denying Islamic values.”
He was sentenced to death by hanging late last year, and he lodged an appeal with Iran’s Supreme Court.
Late last month, the appeal was reported to have been granted, and his lawyer indicated as much to a news agency on July 3. But it quickly emerged that the ruling was not as straightforward as initially thought.
According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), an association established by Iranian human rights advocates in 2009, Nadarkhani and family members have been told that new charges may be brought against the accused man, or the case could be referred back to the original sentencing court, in northern Iran’s Gilan province.
HRANA said the information it obtained indicated that the Gilan court would “question the defendant again in order to determine whether he believes in Islam or not. If he is a Muslim, Yosef Nadarkhani must be released. If it is determined that he is a Christian, he may repent from his faith. Otherwise, if he insists on his beliefs, the death penalty must be carried out.”
The advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said that despite reports suggesting the death sentence had been annulled, “in reality the Supreme Court appears to have added a precondition requiring him to renounce his faith, or face execution.”
Last week the American Center for Law and Justice sent letters to the State Department, lawmakers and the Iranian mission to the U.N. calling for Nadarkhani’s release.
The Barnabas Fund, an organization working with Christian minorities in Islamic societies and headed by an expert on Islam, reports that Nadarkhani denied apostasy on the grounds that, until becoming a Christian at the age of 19, he had followed no faith.
However, he was born to Muslim parents and, according to Islamic law (shari’a), a child of Muslim parents is considered to be a Muslim.
The last time a Christian is known to have been executed in Iran for his faith was 21 years ago, when Hussein Sodmand, an Assemblies of God pastor, was hanged after refusing to recant.
Apostasy is not an offense in the Iranian penal code, but Iran’s constitution includes a clause that says if a basis for a judicial ruling does not exist in the law, judges may not refuse to hear such cases but must turn to “reliable Islamic sources or a valid fatwa.”
That’s where a person accused of leaving Islam in favor of another religion faces serious difficulties.
Scholars who argue for the death penalty invoke texts like sura 4:89 of the Qur’an, which urges Muslims to seize and kill those who turn away. The Hadith, or traditional writings and sayings of Mohammed, include one (the Sahih al-Bukhari) in which the prophet commands, “Any [Muslim] person who has changed his religion, kill him.”
(Some scholars disagree, arguing that to deserve the death penalty the apostate should not only have converted but must also be a danger to the community. Another Qur’anic injunction, sura 2:256, states “there is no compulsion in religion.”)
The interpretations of shari’a that do uphold death for apostasy say that Muslim men of sound mind who abandon Islam or convert to another faith, and who refuse to return to Islam – usually within a specified, limited period – should be executed.
Mauritania’s criminal code, for instance, provides for a three-day period of reflection and repentance for any Muslim found guilty of apostasy “whether by word or action.” “If he does not repent within this time limit, he is to be condemned to death as an apostate and his property will be confiscated by the Treasury,” it states.
In Afghanistan, Christian convert Abdul Rahman was sentenced to death in 2006 for apostasy, but after the U.S. and other coalition countries put pressure on President Hamid Karzai’s government, he was freed and allowed to seek asylum abroad.
In Saudi Arabia, apostasy is among a category of offenses – others include rape and murder – punishable by death. President Bush used the opportunity of a Saudi-initiated interreligious meeting at the U.N. in 2006 to urge the kingdom to scrap its prohibition on religious conversions.
When an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) body in 2009 brought together 200 scholars in the United Arab Emirates to discuss various aspects of shari’a, the issue of execution for apostasy divided them,
Arguing in favor of the death penalty, a prominent Saudi religious law professor, Muhammad al-Nujaimi, said scholars in the past had not differed substantively over the issue. They only differed over how quickly the apostate should be executed – whether after three days, a week, or several months, he said.
Saudi media quoted Al-Nujaimi as dismissing criticism from human rights groups. “These groups will never stop attacking Islam even if we were to agree to all their demands,” he said. “We will never allow others to dictate our religion to us.”
‘Islamic justice and equity’
Meanwhile Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, is also facing the prospect of a lengthy prison term. The semi-official ISNA news agency reported that he was sentenced Monday to nine years’ imprisonment and banned from practicing or teaching law for 10 years. Dadkhah, who represented activists arrested after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 re-election, was reportedly accused of “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime.”
“Pastor Nadarkhani’s life and Mr. Dadkhah’s future both hang in the balance,” said CSW advocacy director Andrew Johnston.
“The international community must act urgently to press Iran to ensure due process in both cases, and that Pastor Nadarkhani in particular is acquitted of a charge that is not in fact recognized under Iranian civil law.”
Johnston noted that Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom to change one’s religion or belief.
When the Iranian government presented its human rights record to the U.N. Human Rights Council last year – as part of a revolving process involving every U.N. member state – it claimed in a prepared report to uphold the rights of specified non-Muslim minorities.
“Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities, who, within the limits of the law, are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education,” it said.
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of Islamic justice and equity, and to respect their human rights,” the report stated.Print This Post