American Bible Society today released the first two chapters of their 11th annual State of the Bible report, which highlights cultural trends in the U.S. regarding spirituality and Scripture engagement. Today’s release shows that millions more Americans turned to the Bible in the past year than in previous years; one in four U.S. adults report a more frequent Bible reading habit than did last year. The first two chapters are currently available to download at StateoftheBible.org.
“Over the past year, Americans have faced a once-in-a-century pandemic—along with significant political and social unrest,” said John Farquhar Plake, PhD and director of ministry intelligence for American Bible Society. “However, our research shows that in the midst of incredible pressure, Americans are finding hope and resilience in the Bible. This marks the fourth straight year in a trend of Americans moving toward the Bible, with COVID-19 encouraging many of us to look to faith for answers. There’s an astounding opportunity right now for the Church to answer our nation’s pervasive trauma and pain with the hope and healing of God’s Word.”
The findings come from a survey conducted in January 2021, in which data were gathered from 3,354 online interviews with American adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an additional 91 responses from Gen Z youth. For this year’s report, American Bible Society will release nine chapters throughout the year. The first chapter, The Bible in America, examines Scripture engagement and key trends around the Bible since the last study in 2020. The second chapter, The New Normal, looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed people’s relationships with the Bible and examines the role of the church in helping people read and apply Scripture to their lives.
Key findings analyzed in Chapter 1: The Bible in America
- Over half of U.S. adults believe that America would be worse off without the Bible, which is a 5-percent increase since last year, and one in three American adults (33%) believe America would be the same with or without the Bible (page 3). Seven in ten Americans also claim a view that regards Scripture as the Word of God, with half of Americans deeming the Bible to be without error (page 7).
- Over 181 million Americans opened a Bible in the past year, which is up significantly from 2020, when 169 million adults used the Bible at least occasionally. One in six U.S. adults (16%) read the Bible most days during the week, up from 12 percent in 2020 (page 9). Nearly two in three Americans (63%) say their Bible usage is the same as last year, while one in ten (9%) say it has decreased. However, one in four U.S. adults report a more frequent Bible reading habit (page 10).
- While virtual interactions and device-dependency increased in nearly every aspect of daily life during the pandemic, six in ten Americans still indicate they prefer print or paper Bibles (page 13). Those who are Scripture Engaged* (27%) are about twice as likely to prefer reading the Bible on their smartphones or tablets as those who are Bible Disengaged* (page 14).
- Ninety-five million Americans now are “test-driving the Bible,” looking for hope and wisdom. For the fourth straight year, there have been declines in the overall number of Bible Disengaged* individuals and corresponding growth in the Movable Middle* segment.
Key findings analyzed in Chapter 2: The New Normal
- Among parents with dependent children at home prior to June 2020, mothers saw a sharp decline in their Scripture engagement, falling from a score of 78 to 73 on average. Since then, mothers with children at home have recovered their summer losses and now average 78 on the Scripture engagement scale.
- Congregants who attend churches with both in-person and online service options expressed more positive opinions of their church experience than congregants at churches with only one service option, suggesting that adding online services is a valuable option for churches. Those who attend both types of services are most likely to strongly agree (44%) that their services increased their desire to read the Bible (page 45). Roughly half of respondents–regardless of whether they attend in person, online, or both–strongly agree that church services increased their sense of connection to God (page 47).
- While dealing with the stress of COVID-19, Americans found comfort in relationships (53%), activities (52%), substances (46%), and spirituality (44%). The data also revealed that women are more likely to engage with specific sources of comfort, particularly relational and spiritual sources. The Bible ranks seventh overall at 23% (page 51).
- Black Americans, regardless of their age, select “prayer and/or meditation” as their top comfort and “reading the Bible” as one of their top three comforts, unlike any other group–reflecting the longstanding tradition of Scripture engagement in the Black church. White Americans choose prayer and/or meditation as one of their top three comforts (pages 53-54).
Between June and December 2021, American Bible Society will release seven new chapters in the State of the Bible story, including reports on how Americans turn to the Bible in times of stress; the connection between holistic health and the Bible; how Gen Z understands the Bible and faith; and the relationship between the Bible, money, and generosity.
To download the first two chapters of the State of the Bible 2021 ebook, visit StateoftheBible.org.
*For descriptions on how Scripture engagement was measured and reported, please see page 30 of the ebook available for download at StateoftheBible.org.
About American Bible Society
Since 1816, American Bible Society has been making the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so all people may experience its life-changing message. One of the nation’s first and most enduring ministries, American Bible Society today advocates for all people to apply the Bible’s teachings to their lives in a way that transforms their relationship with God and others. For free Bible resources or to join the Bible cause, visit AmericanBible.org.