Americans Are Fond of the Bible, But Don’t Actually Read It
Americans have a positive view of the Bible. And many say the Christian scriptures are filled with moral lessons for today.
However, more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible.
Less than a quarter of those who have ever read a Bible have a systematic plan for reading the Christian scriptures each day. And a third of Americans never pick it up on their own, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
Small wonder many church leaders worry about biblical illiteracy, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
“Most Americans don’t know first-hand the overall story of the Bible—because they rarely pick it up,” McConnell said. “Even among worship attendees less than half read the Bible daily. The only time most Americans hear from the Bible is when someone else is reading it.”
Many unfamiliar with biblical text
Almost nine out of 10 households (87 percent) own a Bible, according to the American Bible Society, and the average household has three.
But Bible reading remains spotty.
LifeWay Research surveyed 1,000 Americans about their views of the Bible and found significant splits in how familiar they are with the Christian scripture. One in five Americans, LifeWay Research found, has read through the Bible at least once. That includes 11 percent who’ve read the entire Bible once, and 9 percent who’ve read it through multiple times. Another 12 percent say they have read almost all of the Bible, while 15 percent have read at least half.
About half of Americans (53 percent) have read relatively little of the Bible. One in 10 has read none of it, while 13 percent have read a few sentences. Thirty percent say they have read several passages or stories.
Americans also differ in how they approach reading the Bible. Twenty-two percent read a little bit each day, in a systematic approach. A third (35 percent) never pick it up at all, while 30 percent look up things in the Bible when they need to. Nineteen percent re-read their favorite parts, while 17 percent flip open the Bible and read a passage at random. A quarter (27 percent) read sections suggested by others, while 16 percent say they look things up to help others.
Those with evangelical beliefs are more likely (49 percent) to read a little bit each day than those without evangelical beliefs (16 percent). Protestants (36 percent) are more likely to read every day than Catholics (17 percent).
The more often Americans attend church, the more likely they are to read the Bible daily. Thirty-nine percent of those who attend worship services at least once a month read a bit every day, while only 13 percent of those who attend services less than once month pick up a Bible daily.
Men are more likely to skip Bible reading than women. Thirty-nine percent of men say they do not read the Bible on their own, compared to 31 percent of women. Folks in the Northeast (48 percent) are more likely to never pick up a Bible than those from other regions.
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SOURCE: LifeWay Research