These days, everyone’s talking about the Bible. Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s epic History Channel series is just one of the many reasons that the holy book is making headlines.
Amid increased interest in the world’s most bestselling and coveted book comes a study from the Barna Group — one that measures Americans’ views on the Bible. Conducted on behalf of the American Bible Society, the annual “State of the Bible” survey came to some fascinating findings.
To begin, more than half of the country believes the Bible should have more influence in today’s world, with 56 percent of respondents claiming that the holy book has “too little influence in society today.” And 53 percent report reading the Bible to be closer to God.
Some may find these proportions encouraging, but there are some more intriguing — and some would argue, troubling — factors to consider. While 53 percent is a majority of the country, the proportion of those saying that they read the book in an effort to move closer to the Lord has actually decreased since 2011 (the proportion was 64 percent at that time).
And while most homes have a Bible, that has little to do with actual readership and usage of the book. While 88 percent of U.S. households house a copy (the average number of Bibles in each home is 4.4), that doesn’t mean everyone is reading. In fact, 26 percent report that they never read the holy book.
Not surprisingly, though, as people get older, their reliance upon the holy book as a manual for good living increases. While only 30 percent of people aged 18 to 28 see the Bible as containing all that’s needed for a good and meaningful life (they “strongly agree” with such a notion), 62 percent of those aged 67 and older believe the same. Overall, forty-seven percent of the country strongly agreed.
Here’s what the study found about some of the public’s additional views on the Bible:
In the third concept, just 16% of Americans strongly agree that the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths. The percentage of adults in strong agreement with this statement has remained statistically unchanged since 2011 (17% in 2011, 15% in 2012, 16% in 2013). The oldest generation, Elders(ages 67 and older) are least likely to agree strongly with this statement (11%).
Relatively few adults believe theBible can only be correctly interpreted by people who have years of intense training in theology (8% strongly agree) – suggesting that most adults believe it to be accessible to the common person. Three out of four adults do not consider extensive training a requirement to interpret the Bible (52% strongly disagree, 27% somewhat disagree). While the number of adults who disagree strongly with this statement has remained statistically unchanged, those who disagree (both disagree strongly and disagree somewhat combined) has risen from 73% in 2011 to 79% in 2013. Boomers (ages 48-66) and Elders(ages 67 and older) are more likely to agree with this statement; Busters(ages 29-47) are less likely to do so.
TheBarna Group interviewed 1,005 adult respondents 18-years-of-age and older via telephone and collected data from another subset of individuals through an online survey (the latter only received key questions of importance, not the entire survey, and was completed by 1,078 people). The margin of error for the study was +/-2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Read the 2013 “State of the Bible” study in its entirety here.
This story has been updated to reflect 2013 numbers.
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