HAMILTON, Ga. – Most Americans who read the Bible do so because it makes them feel closer to God or because they’re seeking wisdom to make important decisions in their lives.
That’s among the newly released findings of the American Bible Society’s annual State of the Bible Survey.
The survey conducted in January also found that 44 percent of Americans believe the nation would be worse off without the Bible and 23 percent believe negative influences from media, movies and music are feeding a moral decline.
“I am encouraged to see how a vast majority of Americans recognize the moral decline in the nation,” said Paul Baxter, a Christian writer who serves as missions strategist in the Pine Mountain Baptist Association. “Recognizing the problem is perhaps half the solution. It is also encouraging that 44 percent of Americans recognize we would be ‘worse off without the Bible.’”
The American Bible Society saw hopeful signs as well.
“For years, we have asked Americans to imagine their nation without the Bible,” the organization said in a report highlighting the findings. “The results have been rather consistent. While some observers assume there’s a growing animosity toward the Bible, we don’t see that.”
Only 14 percent of the 2,761 people quizzed in the latest survey said America would be a better place without the Bible.
“It’s worth noting that more than a quarter of non-Bible users say the country would be worse off without it,” the report said. “They don’t interact with Scripture themselves even three times a year, but they seem glad that others do.”
The survey found that Americans don’t read the Bible as often as they once did.
“In last year’s poll, that number dropped 10 points,” the report said. “Only two in five Americans, 39%, were Bible users. Frankly, we were hoping this was a glitch, but the 2023 responses matched last year’s low point, 39%.
The report said the most recent high point of 50 percent Bible use occurred in 2020, a year when many people were cooped up at home with little else to do. The next two years saw a return to activity for many, and for a 10th of the population, the Bible was not part of the reboot.
“Despite the downturn in Bible use, we can still say that about 63 million American adults, 24%, use the Bible — on their own, outside of a church service — at least once a week,” the American Bible Society reported.
Women are more likely than men to read the Bible, 41% to 36%.
People who have never been married are least likely to read the Bible. The survey put that number at 30 percent.
Meanwhile, 52% of people who are separated are most likely to read the Bible.
Fifty seven percent of Black Americans read the Bible, compared to 35% of white Americans and 27% of Asian Americans.
Older Americans are more likely to read the Bible than younger ones, 48% to 30%.
Among Christians, 70% of evangelicals read the Bible, compared to 37 percent of Catholics.
The survey found that 86 percent of Americans see a moral decline in the nation, though they disagree about where to place the blame. Twenty-six percent blamed a lack of positive parental involvement, 23% blamed the negative influence of media, movies or music and 16 percent blamed an unhealthy reliance on social media for information.
“Only one in seven respondents, 14%, blamed a low level of respect for the Bible as a guide for moral development as the main reason for decline,” the survey found.
People who read the Bible see that the moral decline of America parallels the decline of Scripture engagement.
“It is not surprising to see the decline in Bible reading when we consider the many distractions of our modern, increasingly secular society,” Baxter said. “But I am most thankful and encouraged to be one with Georgia Baptists who believe in Bible-based churches with Bible-inspired sermons, Wednesday evening Bible studies and Bible-centered Sunday school and small group studies which help us use the one and only guidebook that can lead us out of this moral quagmire.”