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What Do Americans Really Think About the Bible?

By the Barna Group

Photo by Steve Snodgrass, Flickr

March 27, 2013

One of March’s media stories has been the success of the History Channel miniseries,The Bible. The first episode, which premiered on March 3, had 13.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen, making it the highest entertainment (read: non-sports) broadcast of 2013.

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?

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Increasing Antagonism

Despite a clear cultural interest and awareness of the Bible, the research also shows that neutral or negative attitudes toward the Bible are becoming more commonplace. In 2011, more than half (53%) of adults said the Bible “contains everything a person needs to live a meaningful life.” In 2013, that percentage dipped below half of the population (47%). And although the 61% of American adults who want to read the Bible represents a majority of Americans, it’s a step down from the 67% of adults who said the same in 2011. Furthermore, the percentage of adults who believe the Bible contains everything a person needs to live a meaningful life has declined substantially from 75% to 66% in the last two years.

Read the rest of the study from the Barna Group here.