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It’s impossible to know what goes on in the average person’s head, to be sure, but to judge from a recent Gallop poll on the religious beliefs of Americans, it’s evidently not much. The poll said that 42 percent of Amurricans believe “God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago.”

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow said he was “shocked and fascinated” by that extraordinary result. I wasn’t shocked, or even surprised. For one thing, ten thousand years is, for most people, a long, long time, and may sound about right to them for the age of man. For another, why expect anything better, when their “leaders” – those holding and/or running for office – believe much the same thing, or, if they believe anything different, are afraid to alienate their constituents by saying so?

It is fascinating, though, to hear what people will own up to believing. The same Gallop poll, released last week, reported that one-third of our countrymen believe that the Bible is “the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.” Almost one-half believe that it is “the inspired word of God, but not everything in it should be taken literally.”

Blow says he’s curious as to what parts should be taken literally and what parts not, but I’m more intrigued by the notion of God messing with us. (“These are my words, but not all of them are on the level. You’ll have to figure it all out.”)

The poll reported that even among people who are “very familiar” with the theory of evolution, a third believed that God created humans 10,000 years ago. Apparently, “familiar with” means, to these folks, “aware of as a crackpot idea.”

Jesus said for us to be a light unto the world. (Should we take this literally?) Blow says that “Religious fundamentalism at the expense of basic scientific facts threatens to obscure America’s beacon of light with a bank of fog,” but a more realistic metaphor would be something like “threatens to squash the light of a dying firefly.”

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