Interesting trends concerning Americans’ attitude toward the Bible were found in the recently published State of the Bible 2017 study.
For several years now, talking heads have stated that Americans were becoming increasingly less interested in religion and the Bible. However, that may not be the case.
The State of the Bible 2017, a nationwide study conducted by the American Bible Society and the Barna Group, found that though engagement with the Bible has dipped since 2013, those levels are no longer falling. Other interesting trends concerning Americans’ attitude toward the Bible were found, as well.
The number of skeptics – those who view the Bible as “just another book written by men” – accounts for 19 percent of Americans, which is a 3 percent decrease from 2016. Not only are these Americans unconvinced of the Bible’s inspiration, the study also found that they’re hostile toward the Bible. Of those labeled skeptics, 78 percent said that they believe it “was written to control or manipulate other people.” 2017 was the first year this question was asked of skeptics, so no new trend was found.
Though nearly 20 percent of Americans are skeptical of the Bible and its teachings, a majority of Americans still own and engage with their Bible. Some 87 percent of Americans own a Bible, and even skeptics have one around – 67 percent say they own a Bible. Ownership of the Bible has also led to a consistent number of those who read, listen to or pray with the Bible. The study found that 50 percent of Americans engage with their Bible at least three to four times a year. Across the board, a high percentage of all categories said they wished they used their Bible more.
Interestingly, 91 percent of those surveyed shared that though they have used a non-printed format of the Bible in the past year, they still prefer to engage with their Bibles in a printed format.
Why people chose to engage more with their Bible was also a question asked of the participants. Of those who said that they read the Bible at an increased rate, 56 percent said it was because they felt that it was an important part of their faith journey. Other reasons include looking for direction or answers during a difficult life circumstance (39 percent), seeing how the Bible changed someone they know (30 percent) and being asked by someone to read their Bible (20 percent).
The study’s surveys were conducted from January 23rd through February 2nd, 2017. Over 2,000 Americans participated through phone calls and online surveys. The State of the Bible report has been conducted since 2011. “By documenting shifting perceptions of the Bible over the years, these surveys help American Bible Society and its partners identify where Bible ministry is changing lives—and where more work is needed,” is the stated purpose of the study.