The interest in a cable series makes it clear the American public is certainly interested in the Bible. But what do Americans actually think about the Bible? Do they believe it to be sacred, authoritative or merely nonsense? Do they try to follow its exhortations, or do they regard the Bible as antiquated literature? Does the Bible still matter—besides television ratings—to Americans?
A recent survey from the Barna Group, commissioned by the American Bible Society, provides some insight into these questions. From the results, it’s easy to see why the Bible remains a cultural force in the United States. Yet, its future role looks very different than its past.
The Bible’s Place in Society
If the Bible has such resonance with television viewers, then it stands to reason the awareness of the Christian Scriptures is high in America. And indeed, nearly nine out of ten (88%) Americans actually own a Bible. Despite such a high number, that’s declined since 1993, though only slightly, when 92% of Americans owned a Bible. On average, American Bible owners have 3.5 Bibles in their home, and one-quarter of Bible owners (24%) have six or more.
In terms of demographic breakdowns, about eight out of ten (79%) Mosaics (people aged 18-28) own a Bible, compared with nearly all (95%) Elders (who are ages 65-plus). And while it might not be surprising that religiously devoted Christians own Bibles, the study finds that six out of ten Americans (59%) who have no faith or who identify as atheists own a Bible. Despite many aspects of society that are secularizing, penetration of Scripture remains high in 2013.