Bible reading and usage have sunk to an all-time low in the United States, new data from the American Bible Society's State of the Bible Survey shows.
The data also shows that despite the discouraging news about Bible usage, half of Americans believe the Bible includes "everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life," Christian Headlines reported.
The 2022 survey, released April 6, showed that Bible users were 10 percent fewer among American adults, from 49 percent in 2021 to 39 percent in 2022.
The percentage was the lowest recorded in the survey, which began in 2011.
"American Bible Society stands as a servant to the church. State of the Bible is our effort to equip the church with the data necessary to do what God calls it to do," says Robert L. Briggs, the society's president and CEO in the preface to the analysis.
American Bible Society defines a Bible user as someone who reads, listens to or prays with the Bible on their own, outside of a church service at least three to four times a year.
The survey found that one in five Americans left the "Bible engaged" category in the past year.
"Nearly 26 million Americans reduced or stopped their interaction with Scripture in the past year," the report said noting it as an unprecedented drop.
The discovery of the new pattens from the research raised questions in the team such as was there something wrong with the sample? Did the researchers err in their calculations? And what is causing this volatility?
"Something real had changed. We were detecting a clear signal, not just noise," the research team said.
"Beginning in 2020 and accelerating since then, Bible Users have indicated a decreased level of Spiritual Impact from the Bible," the report said.
One of the factors that could have influenced Bible users is the COVID-19 pandemic, said the report.
"No matter how sincerely we wish they would go away, the COVID-19 pandemic, political polarization, and other disruptions are still affecting the nation," the report said.
"Furthermore, the omicron variant surge was hitting the Southern and Midwestern United States just as we were collecting data in mid-to-late January. These regions of the United States tend to be more Scripture engaged, as a population, than the rest of the nation."
The report noted that the pandemic "has seriously disrupted" Americans' "relationships with church communities, which are the epicenter of these behaviors for most American Christians."