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Most Alabama residents have faith, know Bible, poll finds

MOBILE (AP) — Most Alabama residents say they have a religious faith and a majority in a new poll showed they have a basic knowledge of the Bible.

For example, nearly 70 percent of respondents to last week’s Press-Register/University of South Alabama survey correctly named all four Gospels.

“They don’t call it the Bible Belt for nothing,” said Keith Nicholls, a political scientist and director of the USA Polling Group, which conducted the poll.

The poll showed Alabama residents know more about the Bible than other Americans.

Most Americans can’t identify even one of the four Gospels, according to polls cited by Boston University professor Stephen Prothero, who has received national acclaim for his recent book titled “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn’t.”

The Press-Register/USA telephone poll of 404 adults statewide had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

More than 70 percent of the Alabama respondents knew the location that the Bible identifies as Jesus’ birthplace — Bethlehem.

Only 16 percent, however, knew that President Bush was making a reference to the biblical parable of the good Samaritan when he cited the Jericho Road in his first inaugural address.

Prothero, whose work has received attention ranging from Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” to the cover of the current Time magazine, was impressed by the religious literacy that Alabamians displayed, although he noted it was something that he might have expected.

Still, he said, he was troubled that 30 percent of respondents attributed Benjamin Franklin’s adage “God helps those who help themselves” to the Bible.

“It’s not biblical,” he said. “I mean it in two senses. One is that it’s not in the Bible, but the other is that it’s actually opposed to the spirit of the Bible. The biblical teaching, in my view, is God helps those who cannot help themselves.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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