Americans Say Morality Down, but Shun Bible
Reading as Solution, Survey Says
As Adventists read a chapter daily, American Bible Society poll shows polarized public (Posted April 18, 2013)
BY AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY
new report released March 26, 2013, finds Americans overwhelmingly (77 percent) believe that morals and values are declining in the U.S. The most-cited cause for the decline? A lack of Bible reading.
“Americans overwhelmingly recognize the decline of morality in our nation,” said Doug Birdsall, president of American Bible Society. “The good news is [that] the Bible is the ultimate instruction guide on how to live a moral life. Unfortunately, more than half of Americans rarely, if ever, read it.”
The news comes a year after the Seventh-day Adventist Church began a worldwide initiative to have members read a chapter of the Bible daily, leading up to the 2015 General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas. “Revived by His Word,” as the program is called, has a goal of having “at least half of the church membership involved in some aspect of systematic daily Bible study,” Mark Finley, an assistant to the General Conference president, said at the April 2012 launch.
The general population survey findings were reported in American Bible Society’s annual “State of the Bible” survey. The report details Americans’ beliefs about the Bible, its role in society, its presence in U.S. homes, and more. As in previous years, the survey found that the Bible remains a highly valued, influential force in America.
SURVEY SAYS: Infographic shows mixed views of Scripture held by a cross section of the American public, according to researchers The Barna Group, who worked for the American Bible Society.
But beliefs about the Bible and its role in society are becoming increasingly polarized—particularly when the data is examined according to respondents’ age group.
The research also uncovered a significant disconnect in belief versus behavior. While 66 percent of those surveyed agreed that the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life, 58 percent say they do not personally want wisdom and advice from the Bible, and about the same amount (57 percent) read it fewer than five times per year.
The State of the Bible 2013 survey, conducted by the Barna Group on behalf of the American Bible Society, found:
The Bible continues to dominate both mind space and book retail space as America’s undisputed best seller.
• One in six people reported buying a copy of the Bible during the past year.
• Eighty percent of Americans identify the Bible as sacred.
• Americans have plenty of copies at their fingertips—an average of 4.4 Bibles per household.
Fifty-six percent of adults believe the Bible should have a greater role in U.S. society.
But actual Bible reading and perceptions about the Bible have become increasingly polarized, with 6 million new Bible antagonists in the past year alone.
More than half (57 percent) of those ages 18-28 report reading the Bible less than three times a year or never.
While those ages 18-28 are the least likely age group to read the Bible, they are the most interested in receiving input and wisdom from it on several topics, including:
• parenting (42 percent, compared to 22 percent of all adults)
• family conflict (40 percent, compared to 24 percent of all adults)
• dating and relationships (35 percent, compared to 16 percent of all adults)
• romance and sexuality (30 percent, compared to 17 percent of all adults)
In a nonelection year, an increasing number of adults believe that the Bible and politics do not mix (54 percent, compared to 49 percent in 2012). However, 69 percent still say their faith influences their views on political issues.
The disconnect between belief and action when it comes to Bible reading is troubling, Birdsall noted.
“If we had a cure for cancer, wouldn’t everyone with cancer take it? Americans are telling us that the cure for declining morality is sitting on our bookshelves,” said Birdsall. “But more than half of Americans are simply letting the cure gather dust.”
—with additional reporting by
Adventist Review staff