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Biblical Literalism

These questions measure how literally respondents read the Bible or other sacred scriptures.  It is debatable whether this measure taps more of a belief or an identity.  Although certainly some of both, the latter seems to be more important, as “literalists” from different interpretive communities may disagree on which parts of the Bible are to be taken literally.

What is clear is that this question taps a dimension of religion important for understanding other aspects of religiosity, political attitudes, and views about moral authority more generally.  Accordingly this measure has become a standard control, along with service attendance and religious tradition.  It is also used as an indicator of fundamentalism.  Although some believers claim that belief in Biblical “inerrancy” is different, this too is typically taken to mean “literalism.”

Measures typically include three or four response options.  Researchers sometimes employ these as ordinal categories, while others utilize them as nominal categories.

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Ammerman, Nancy.  1987.  Bible Believers.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Bartkowski, John.  1996.  “Beyond Biblical Literalism and Inerrancy: Conservative Protestants and the Hermeneutic Interpretation of Scripture.”  Sociology of Religion 57(3):259-272.

Boone, Kathleen.  1989.  The Bible Tells Them So: The Discourse of Protestant Fundamentalism.  Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Hoffman, John and John Bartkowski.  2008.  “Gender, Religious Tradition, and Biblical Literalism.”  Social Forces 86(3):1245-1269.

Hood Jr., Ralph, Peter C. Hill and W. Paul Williamson.  2005.  The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism.  New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Several files in the ARDA’s Data Archive have examples of this Measure.

BIBLE – 2006 General Social Survey (similar measures available from other waves)

INERRANT – National Congregations Study, Cumulative Dataset (1998 and 2006-2007)

BIBLE – 1998 International Social Survey Program: Religion II

Q20 – 2005 Baylor Religion Survey

VCF0850 – American National Election Studies, Cumulative Data File, 1948-2004

SCRIPTUR – Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals

LITERAL – 2008 Religion and Public Life Survey

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Several files in theARDA's Data Archive have examples of this Measure.
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