Study: “The Bible in American Life”

UntitledThe year 2011 marked the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. It also marked the beginning of a three-year Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI ) study of the Bible’s place in the everyday lives of Americans.

With a $507,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture – a program of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI – set out to answer questions of how, where, when and why ordinary Americans use the Bible.

According to findings made public online in the 44-page “The Bible in American Life” report, the four-centuries-old King James Version of the Bible is far from dead. Despite its archaic language and a market flooded with newer, more modern English translations, more than half of the individuals and two-fifths of the congregations surveyed still prefer the King James Bible.

And of those surveyed, African Americans reported the highest levels of Bible engagement.

Seventy percent of all blacks said they read the Bible outside of public worship services, compared to 44 percent for whites, 46 percent for Hispanics and 28 percent for all other races.

Bible memorization is highest among black respondents, 69 percent, compared to 51 percent among white conservative Protestants and 31 percent among white moderate/liberal Protestants.

“There are no measures, individually or in congregations, where ‘black’ is not strongly correlated with the most conservative, most active, most involved level of scriptural engagement, no matter which other group comes closest,” the report says.

“If one wanted to predict whether someone had read the Bible, believed it to be the literal or inspired Word of God, and used it to learn about many practical aspects of life, knowing whether or not that person was black is the single best piece of information one could have.”

The report first looks at the practice of scripture reading in the United States, and then explores eight measures among those who read the Bible, such as Bible translation used; scripture memorization habits; favorite passages; and race.

Roughly half of Americans have read religious scripture outside of a public worship service in the past year. For 95 percent of those, the Bible is the scripture they read.

What did the study reveal about Bible readers?

Most of those people read at least monthly, and a substantial number – 9 percent of all Americans – read every day.

Women were more likely to read than men; older people were more likely to read than younger; Southerners were more likely to read than those of any other region.

The percentage of verse memorizers among Bible readers (48 percent) equates to roughly a fourth of the American population as a whole, or nearly 80 million people.

Psalm 23 – which begins “The Lord is my shepherd” – was the most popular Biblical passage.

Younger people, those with higher salaries and, most dramatically, those with more education among the respondents read the Bible on the internet or an e-device at higher rates.

The written report, based on survey questions on both the General Social Survey (1,551 individuals) and the National Congregations Study III (denominations represented among the General Social Survey respondents), is the first stage of the study and offers sociological data about the role of the Bible.

“Historians and sociologists have been working for years to understand how religion is lived out on a daily level,” said Philip Goff, executive director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture and one of the three principal investigators who led the study. “This gives us a good snapshot of the practice of Bible reading. That should also help ministers understand the people in their pews.”

Goff’s co-investigators are Arthur Farnsley, associate director of the center; and Peter Thuesen, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at IUPUI.

full article found here

Notre Dame historian and professor to discuss ‘The Bible Then and Now’ in public talk

INDIANAPOLIS — Noted historian and National Endowment for the Humanities medal recipient Mark Noll will deliver a public talk Thursday, Aug. 7, as part of the IUPUI Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture’s The Bible and American Life Conference.

Noll will present “The Bible Then and Now” at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral, 125 Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. Registration is not required for this keynote talk, which is open to the entire Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus as well as the general public.

Noll is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. His numerous books include “The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith” (InterVarsity Press, 2009); “God and Race in American Politics: A Short History” (Princeton University Press, 2008); and “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis” (University of North Carolina Press, 2006). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; in 2006 he received the National Endowment for the Humanities medal at a White House ceremony.

The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture is part of the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. The Bible and American Life Conference, taking place Wednesday through Friday at Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre, is the second stage of a project that seeks to provide the first large-scale investigation of the Bible in American life.

Earlier this year, the center released the first part of the project: a report based on a national survey of American Bible reading. Among its many findings, the study discovered:

•    There is a 50/50 split among Americans who read any form of scripture in the past year and those who did not.

•    Among those who read any form of scripture in the past year, 95 percent named the Bible as the scripture they read.

•    Despite the proliferation of Bible translations, the King James Version is the top choice — and by a wide margin — of Bible readers.

•    The strongest correlation with Bible reading is race, with African Americans reading the Bible at considerably higher rates than others.

•    Bible readers consult scripture for personal prayer and devotion three times more to learn about culture war issues such as abortion, homosexuality, war or poverty.
A conference schedule and registration information are available online.

Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture offers conference on how Bible is used

391697_w296INDIANAPOLIS — Registration is now underway for a national conference that will culminate a three-year Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis study of how — outside of religious services – - Americans use the Bible in their daily lives.

The Conference on the Bible in American Life will take place Wednesday Aug. 6, to Friday, Aug. 8, at the Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre, 31 W. Ohio St., in downtown Indianapolis.

The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at IUPUI is sponsoring the three-day event as part of the first large-scale investigation of the Bible in American life.

Noted historian Mark Noll of the University of Notre Dame will deliver a conference plenary address. Noll will present “The Bible: Then and Now” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, at Christ Church Cathedral, 125 Monument Circle. Conference registration is not required for the plenary address, which is open to the public.

“While the Bible has been central to Christian practice throughout American history, many important questions remain unanswered in scholarship,” said Philip Goff, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, which is part of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

Those unanswered questions include how people read the Bible for themselves, how denominational and parachurch publications have influenced interpretation and application, and how clergy and congregations have influenced individual understandings of scripture, the director said.

“These questions are even more pressing today, as denominations are losing much of their traditional authority, technology is changing people’s reading and cognitive habits, and subjective experience is continuing to eclipse textual authority as the mark of true religion,” Goff said. “Understanding both the past and the future of Christian communities in the United States depends, even if only in part, on a serious analysis of how these cultural shifts are affecting Americans’ relationship to the Bible.”

Earlier this year, the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture released a report about the Bible’s use based on a national survey of American Bible reading. During the upcoming conference, historians, sociologists, political scientists, seminary professors and religious leaders will offer analyses of the Bible in daily life that complement the report’s findings and will put those findings about the Bible’s use in a broader context.

Among the report’s many findings:

  • There is a 50/50 split among Americans who read any form of scripture (the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, etc.) in the past year and those who did not.
  • Among those who read any form of scripture in the past year, 95 percent named the Bible as the scripture they read.
  •  Despite the proliferation of Bible translations, the King James Version is the top choice — and by a wide margin — of Bible readers.
  •  The strongest correlation with Bible reading is race, with African Americans reading the Bible at considerably higher rates than others.

Seating for the three-day conference is limited, and advance registration is required. Registration before July 15 is $50; after July 15 it is $70.