68% of American Adults Are Now ‘Bible Curious’
According to American Bible Society’s (ABS) report, State of the Bible 2020, the number of American adults considered “Scripture engaged” based on how frequently they read the Bible and its impact on their relationships and choices dropped from 28% to 23% (a loss of 13 million people) between January and June 2020 during the virus outbreak (the survey sampling error is +/-3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level). The decline in Bible engagement was most notable among women. ABS suggests this could be due in part to increased childcare responsibilities falling to mothers amid shutdowns, job changes, and school closings.
Yet the study also shows 68% of American adults (about 172 million people) are ‘Bible curious,’ meaning they want to learn more about Scripture. More Americans were exploring the Bible for the first time in June 2020 compared to January 2020.[See the Scripture Engagement section on Bible Gateway]
• People were most likely to report an increase in Bible engagement if a family member in their household or a neighbor died from COVID-19. Bible engagement tended to stay the same for those who have not known anyone who has died from COVID-19.
• 8 in 10 individuals who were hospitalized by COVID-19 said they wished they had used the Bible more. Others who did not experience the fear as acutely decreased their Bible engagement or it stayed the same as it was in January.[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, COVID-19: Bible Reading Plan of Assurance]
• Those tending to be more Scripture engaged were more likely to seek the Bible, family members, and prayer/meditation for comfort. Those tending to be less Bible engaged were more likely to seek food, TV/streaming, and prescription drugs as sources of comfort.
• 85% of practicing Christians either strongly agree or agree somewhat that the pandemic has strengthened their faith.
• 38% of Americans say the pandemic has negatively affected their ability to worship and serve God, including 45% of city dwellers, 38% of small town residents, 36% of those in the suburbs, and 28% of people in rural areas.
• 48% of Millennials and 43% of Gen Z adults are most likely to report negative effects on their spiritual lives; 39% of Gen X and smaller percentages of senior adults.
• Majorities of respondents reported high to moderate stress levels related to the pandemic, though practicing Christians were the least stressed group. Just 22% of practicing Christians reported high stress, compared to 25% of non-practicing Christians, and 37% of non-Christians. The most common anxiety symptoms among all groups with moderate and high stress were sleeplessness, loneliness, a sense of hopelessness about the future, and fear or anger.
• Almost one third of USA adults (31%) interact with the Bible once a week or more often on their own (only 9% read the Bible daily), not counting use of the Bible while at a worship service.
• 69% either never read the Bible (34%) or read it rarely. ABS says in 2011, about 64 million people said they never used the Bible. Today that number is 87–90 million today. Most of that change has come in what ABS calls “occasional” Bible users or the “movable middle.”
• 22% of Americans live in a household without a Bible.
• While 7 out of 10 USA adults (68%) believe strongly or somewhat that “the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life,” 65% say the Bible, the Quran, and the Book of Mormon all teach the same lessons, rejecting the Bible as a unique or exclusive source of spiritual truth.[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How Friendship Helped a Follower of Islam See the Truth About Jesus]
• 48% of practicing Christians believe the three books are different expressions of the same truths. The report defines practicing Christians as those who identify as Protestant or Catholic, attend religious services at least monthly, and say their faith plays a very important role in their lives.
• 49% say America would be in worse shape without the Bible, while 39% believe the absence of Scripture would make no difference, and 13% think the country would be better off without it.
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• Three fourths of USA adults (77%) live in a household with a Bible and virtually all of those adults (99%) have it in a language they can read. Of the one quarter (23%) who do not own a Bible, nearly half (46%) say they have used the Bible on a smartphone app in the past year, and a third agree (5% strongly, 28% somewhat) that they are curious about what the Bible says.[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Latest Bible-Related Research]
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