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The Shocking Truth About How Americans View the Bible

To commemorate American Bible Society’s 200th anniversary, the organization unveiled The Bible in America, a joint effort with Barna Group providing an in-depth review of its six years of research on behaviors and beliefs about the Bible from American Bible Society’s annual State of the Bible report. While many Americans still value the Bible, the number of skeptics is rising. The current reality is viewed by American Bible Society as an opportunity to develop new strategies for helping people overcome barriers to engagement with the Bible.

“As American Bible Society celebrates its 200th anniversary, we are spending much more time looking ahead than revisiting the past,”said Andrew Hood, director of communications for American Bible Society. “The Bible in America research provides valuable insights into how people are interacting with the Bible—and why they are not.”

Over the past six years, a majority of Americans, an average of 62 percent, have expressed a desire to read the Bible more. The Bible in America points to several other positive trends that showcase Americans’ high regard for the Bible:

  • A two-thirds majority of adults believe the Bible contains everything a person needs to know in order to live a meaningful life.
  • Two-thirds of adults hold an orthodox view of the Bible, believing it is the actual or inspired Word of God.
  • Forty-four percent of Americans read the Bible at least once a month.
    On average, eight out of 10 Americans consider the Bible to be sacred literature or a holy book.
  • Most Americans, 64 percent, believe the Bible has more influence on humanity than any other text according to the 2016 State of the Bible data.

In contrast to trends about the Bible’s value, the number of Bible skeptics has increased to 22 percent in 2016, surpassing the number of Bible engaged people (now at 17 percent). Two key markers reveal how skepticism has risen and gained a stronger cultural foothold in America. These include declines in the following:

  • American adults who believe the Bible is sacred literature (86 percent in 2011; 80 percent in 2016).
  • Those who say the Bible is sufficient as a guide for meaningful living (77 percent in 2011; 67 percent in 2016).

Millennials in particular are driving these declines as the age group with the most respondents saying there were no books they considered sacred. Christian millennials, however, are very different than their non-Christian counterparts when it comes to Bible attitudes and behaviors.

  • Christian millennials share similar beliefs and engage the Bible much the same as older generations.
  • 69 percent believe the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life.
  • 63 percent would describe the Bible as “fact.”
  • Non-Christian millennials are the most likely to be Bible skeptics and engage with the Bible the least.
  • 62 percent have never read the Bible.
  • 30 percent said the Bible is a useful book of moral teachings.

The percentage of American adults as a whole considered Bible friendly has declined (from 45 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2016), while the percentage of those identified as Bible neutral has stayed relatively the same (from 25 percent to 24 percent). In addition, the percentage of Americans who said there were no books they considered sacred doubled (from 7 to 14 percent).

“Looking at modern-day America, we see a country moving away—for decades now—from the foundational, biblical values so cherished by those who came before us,” said Roy Peterson, president and CEO of American Bible Society. “As we work together to address the skepticism of our day, now is our time to renew hope in the promises of God’s Word, to open the healing words of Scripture as people are battling extreme violence, poverty and oppression.”

Among other strategies, the ministry is leveraging technology to reach Americans wherever they are by using social media to deliver Scripture. It is also lending support to the development of a Bible-based online game for teens and administering the top-level domain .Bible.

“American Bible Society has a 10-year goal of seeing 100 million people in the U.S. regularly engaging with Scripture,” said Hood. “Our hope is that as more Americans recognize the value of reading the Bible and make time to engage with God’s Word, they will begin to see the transformation it can bring in their lives.”

For more information about The Bible in America (including additional demographic data) and the latest State of the Bible research,visit http://stateoftheBible.org.