Americans view Bible positively, but survey finds skepticism now tied with engagement

(Photo: REUTERS / Carlo Allegri)A man reads aloud from his bible in Times Square on Christmas Eve in the Manhattan borough of New York, December 24, 2014.

For the first time since Barna Group and American Bible Society's Bible engagement tracking began, Bible skepticism is tied with Bible engagement.

The number of those who are skeptical or agnostic toward the Bible -who believe the Bible is "just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice" - has nearly doubled from 10 percent to 19 percent in just three years.

This is now equal to the number of people who are Bible engaged -who read the Bible at least four times a week and believe it is the actual or inspired Word of God.

Yet, in general, Americans continue to view the Bible very positively.

More than half of Americans (56 percent) are "pro-Bible," the survey found

That means they believe the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God with no errors.

"The Bible has been making its way onto box office screens and home TV screens over the past year: from Noah to Son of God, people have been watching the Bible. But are they still reading the Bible? And do they still believe in the Bible?" asks Barna.

Digging into the population segmentation of Bible skeptics, Barna found that two-thirds are 48 or younger (28 percent Millennials, 36 percent Gen-Xers).

They are twice as likely to be male (68 percent) than female (32 percent).

Bible skeptics are more likely to identify as Catholic than any other single denomination or affiliation (30 percent) and are the segment most likely not to have attended church (87 percent) or prayed (63 percent) during the previous week.

They are also most likely not to have made a commitment to Jesus that is important in their life today (76 percent).

While the percentage of Americans who believe the Bible is sacred has fallen in recent years, from 86 percent in 2011 to 79 percent in 2014, it's still a sizable majority of all adults.


Most adults say the Bible encourages forgiveness (91 percent), generosity (88 percent) and patience (89 percent) while discouraging war (62 percent), slavery (60 percent) and prostitution (82 percent).

Nearly nine in 10 households own at least one Bible (88 percent) and the average number of Bibles per household is 4.7.

Being pro-Bible doesn't necessarily mean Americans use the Bible regularly, however.

Only 37 percent of Americans report reading the Bible once a week or more. Among those who have read Scripture in the previous week, not quite six in 10 (57 percent) say they gave a lot of thought to how it might apply to their life.

While the Bible's place in America as a cultural icon endures, it's not always perceived as a transformational text. Even as Bible ownership remains strong, readership and engagement are weak.

While the majority of people still come to the Scriptures to connect with God, their number is shrinking, from 64 percent in 2011 to 56 percent in 2014.

Today, people are increasingly likely to come to the Bible for more pragmatic needs: nearly one-third (up from 26 percent in 2011) say they read the Bible for comfort or to help them address life's questions.

Copyright © 2014 Ecumenical News