What do people in the US think of scripture?


The religious festivals of Passover and Easter overlap this year*. The Western & Orthodox celebrations of Easter also both occur tomorrow. Because these two annual religious observances are based on each faith’s scriptures, the folks over at the Pew Research Center have released five factoids about how folks in the US, who adhere to the three Abrahamic faiths, view scripture.

Fact One
About a third of Americans (35%) say they read scripture at least once a week, while 45% seldom or never read scripture, according to 2014 data from our Religious Landscape Study. The frequency of reading scripture differs widely among religious groups. Majorities of Jehovah’s Witnesses (88%), Mormons (77%), evangelical Protestants (63%) and members of historically black Protestant churches (61%) say they read scripture at least once a week. By contrast, 65% of Jews say they seldom or never read scripture.

Fact Two
Three-quarters of Christians say they believe the Bible is the word of God. Eight-in-ten Muslims (83%) say the Quran is the word of God, according to the 2014 survey. Far fewer Jews (37%) say they view the Torah as the word of God.

Fact Three
Christians, who make up a majority of U.S. adults (71%), are divided over how to interpret the Bible. While about four-in-ten Christians (39%) say the Bible’s text is the word of God and should be taken literally, 36% say it should not be interpreted literally or express another or no opinion. A separate 18% of Christians view the Bible as a book written by men, not God.

Fact Four
In 2014, about four-in-ten Christians (42%) said reading the Bible or other religious materials is an essential part of what being Christian means to them personally. An additional 37% say reading the Bible is important but not essential to being a Christian, and 21% say reading the Bible is not an important part of their Christian identity.

Fact Five
Seven-in-ten Americans (71%) know the Bible teaches that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. A similar share know that Moses was the biblical figure who led the Exodus from Egypt, and 63% could identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible. But fewer than half of adults (45%) could name all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and only four-in-ten (39%) identified Job as the biblical figure known for remaining obedient to God despite extraordinary suffering.

With regard to other religious texts, four-in-ten Americans knew that Jesus appeared to followers in the Americas according to the Book of Mormon, and 54% correctly name the Quran as the holy book of Islam.

*Passover is 10 – 18 APR and Easter is 16 Apr.

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JC Fisher
JC Fisher

Question: when the pollster inquires about "reading scripture", do they mean the proverbial black leather bound book which says "The Bible" on the cover, or do they mean any vehicle (a website, a devotional, a newsletter, etc) which contains Biblical texts?

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