Beliefs Culture Ethics Jonathan Merritt: On Faith and Culture Opinion

Poll: Bible’s influence waning in America, but still strong

A new poll conducted by The Barna Group shows that the Bible’s influence is waning among Americans, but not nearly as quickly as some might think. And perhaps not for long.

The study, which was commissioned by the American Bible Society, shows that 88% of Americans own a Bible. In 1993, 92% of Americans owned one. On average, American Bible owners possess 3.5 copies of the Christian scriptures. Interestingly, 6 out of 10 Americans who have no faith or identify as atheists own a Bible.

“Influence of the all-time bestseller is losing ground,” the study report declares. But the numbers show that the Bible is still highly influential among Americans.

Sixty-six percent of Americans say “the Bible contains everything a person needs to live a meaningful life,” and 61% percent say they wish they read the Bible more. Eighty percent say they believe the Bible is sacred literature, which is down from 2011 when 86% of Americans said the same, but it is still much higher than any other religious text. Only 8% of Americans, for example, believe the Koran is sacred.

Courtesy of The Barna Group.

Courtesy of The Barna Group.

But the most telling numbers in terms of forecasting are the ones broken down generationally. The study shows that Mosaics (ages 18 – 28) are actually more interested in the Bible than the general population. If these numbers are any indication, we may actually find that the Bible’s influence will increase over time, at least in the near future with natural attrition. Mosaics are more likely than adults in general to say they look to the Bible for wisdom on a whole range of issues:

Courtesy of The Barna Group.

Courtesy of The Barna Group.

A study like may provide more than raw data. It may serve to critique those who have promulgated a narrative about an “anti-Christian America” that is antagonistic, if not downright hostile, toward the Christian faith. It may also critique those who claim that America is an increasingly “secular” society with a religious future that resembles Europe. According to at least one study, Americans are still very much interested in the Christian faith and its scriptures.

The Barna Group is a leading national research and polling firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture.

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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