Poll: Americans love the Bible but don’t read it much

More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline, … Continued

More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline, yet only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis, according to a new survey.

More than three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) think the nation’s morality is headed downhill, according to a new survey from American Bible Society.

The survey showed the Bible is still firmly rooted in American soil: 88 percent of respondents said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles.

If the Bible is so commonplace in America, wouldn’t its moral teachings counteract the downward trend? Almost a third of respondents said moral decline was a result of people not reading the Bible, while 29 percent cited the “negative influence of America” and one in four cited corporate corruption.

Doug Birdsall, president of American Bible Society, said he sees a reason for why the Bible isn’t connecting with people.

“I see the problem as analogous to obesity in America. We have an awful lot of people who realize they’re overweight, but they don’t follow a diet,” Birdsall said. “People realize the Bible has values that would help us in our spiritual health, but they just don’t read it.”

If they do read it, the majority (57 percent) only read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week).

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything,” said the Bible can come across as intimidating to the uninitiated. “There’s a tendency to think that if you read the Bible, you have to read it from start to finish. But when people do read the Bible, they don’t know where to begin,” Martin said.

Younger people also seem to be moving away from the Bible. A majority (57 percent) of those ages 18-28 read their Bibles less than three times a year, if at all.

The Barna Group conducted “The State of the Bible 2013” study for American Bible Society, using 1,005 telephone interviews and 1,078 online surveys with a margin of error for the combined data of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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  • XVIIHailSkins

    Three points to be made here,

    1). American’s don’t read. We have completely ceased to be a literary society, and have become an image based society. People used to engage the world of ideas through books, now we simply let advertising, radio, television, and the internet do the work for us. This is a general, non-partisan observation.

    2). Of course the average American Christian knows almost nothing about the Bible. This is because reading the Bible in its entirety is probably the most effective antibiotic for Christian dogmatism. For most Americans, religion is a Sunday social club, a political platform, and a license to preach to people that you know are more intelligent than you. We would not lead the industrialized world in the number of people per capita who believe in angels and the devil if every American were capable of reading the Bible.

    3). It would advance the cause of rationality immensely if every American were to sit down and read the Bible in one sitting. For one thing, anyone with a modicum of education would realize immediately that this whole “inerrant word of God” business falls on its face somewhere between the first and third verses of Genesis. Also, many Christians who seem to have one preferred Gospel with which they are most familiar would be forced to notice the gaping inconsistencies in the four texts. Most importantly, many Christians would gain some rudimentary historical understanding by reading about the Gods of the Old and New Testament in succession. They would notice that the personalities of these two deities are entirely incompatible, and they would begin to understand that gentle Jesus, if he existed at all, was nothing more than a charismatic rabbi who felt the need to reform a violent, aggressive, and tribalistic Jewish tradition.

  • Rongoklunk

    Maybe they’d put two and two together and realize that gods were always man-made. We humans invented thousands of them, which implies that the current gods are no different; just man made. There is no other kind.

  • SimonTemplar

    @ XVIIHailSkins:

    I agree with point 1.

    Point 2 is a mixture of your own prejudice and gross generalizations.

    Point 3 is misleading. Christians have written whole books on the subject of “inconsistencies” in the Bible. I’m guessing you haven’t read any of them.


    @ Rongoklunk:

    Yes, humans invent all kinds of gods. From what we read in the Bible it would seem that throughout most of history even the Jewish people had this problem. We’ve created a god for every conceivable thing.

    One of the things I find so compelling about the God of the Bible is that He DEFIES this tendency. ONE GOD? That is not the sort of thing that humans would invent.