Two of the biggest religious festivals ended a few days ago. The Christian Easter celebration is over, as is the Jewish Passover. Both of these celebrations rely heavily on biblical scripture. Pew Research offers information about how people in the United States view scripture. There are some interesting points about who is reading the Bible and what people believe.
According to the data, about one-third of Americans read the Bible at least once a week. How this breaks down by religious tradition is very informing. This is the percentage of each religious group that reads the Bible:
Jehovah's Witness: 88 percent Mormon: 77 percent Evangelical Protestant: 63 percent Historically black Protestant: 61 percent Muslim: 46 percent Mainline Protestant: 30 percent Orthodox Christian: 29 percent Catholic: 25 percent Jewish: 17 percent
About 75 percent of Christians believe that the Bible is the word of God. Muslims believe the Quran is the word of God. Surprisingly, only 37 percent of Jews view the Torah as the word of God. The Torah is described as the law of God revealed to Moses. It is the first five books in the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
How Should the Bible Be Interpreted?
The majority of the adults surveyed (71 percent) cannot decide how to interpret the word of God. About 40 percent of Christian Americans believe the Bible should be taken literally, and another almost 40 percent believe it should not be taken literally. About 20 percent believe the Bible was written by man, not God.
Only 42 percent of Christians believe that the Bible is integral to their faith. Another 37 percent believe that reading the Bible is important, but not essential to being a Christian. One-in-five believe that reading the Bible is not important to being a Christian. Fewer than half of Americans can name the first four books of the New Testament: the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Over half of the people knew that the Quran is the holy book of Islam.
Morals on the Decline
The American Bible Society also takes the pulse of the nation as it refers to Bible reading. One question ABS asks is whether morality is declining. About 81 percent answered in the affirmative in the 2017 State of the Bible survey. This is up five percent over the survey in 2016. However, ABS also found that many Americans have hope in God's word, as 58 percent of Americans believe that the Bible should have significance and they wish they read the Bible more. Americans believe that Bible-readers are humble, loving and accepting. ABS also reports that 68 percent of those who read the Bible do so because it brings them closer to God. Bible skeptics dropped by two percent.
Many of the greatest leaders in history studied the Bible as part of their education and upbringing: Desmond Tutu, Queen Elizabeth II, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. President Theodore Roosevelt said, "A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education."
Then there are the critics who believe that the Bible is a "radically pro-slavery document." The Bible has been used to justify many harms done to people throughout the years. Penn Jillette believes reading the Bible is a "fast track to atheism." He does admit that the Bible is a big part of American culture, though.
No matter how you view the Bible, you have to admit that it is important to understanding the history of America. It has shaped our Constitution, the Bill of Rights and many other documents throughout the course of the United States. Take another look at this religious text before you put it back on the shelf.