Scripture engagement in the US has reached 'historic low'

Scripture engagement is at an all-time low among Americans.(Photo: Unsplash/Sincerely Media)

Bible reading in the US has "dramatically decreased" in the last year, according to the latest research by the American Bible Society (ABS).

The non-profit released the first chapter in its 12th annual State of the Bible report on Wednesday. 

It showed that just 19% of Americans engage with Scripture - a "historic low", according to ABS.

For the purposes of the study, Scripture engagement was defined as"consistent interaction with the Bible that shapes a person's choices and transforms their relationships with God, self, and others".

The decline in engagement is despite nearly half of American adults (49%) agreeing that "the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life". 

The "Bible Disengaged" category grew in the last year by 45.2 million adults.

"This is the single largest disruption in scripture engagement ever recorded in the 12 years of conducting the State of the Bible survey," ABS said. 

In the past year, nearly 26 million Americans decreased or stopped interacting altogether with Scripture, with those who identified as Bible users falling from around 47-49% of American adults, to 39%. 

Among "non-Bible users" - those who seldom or never read the Bible - nearly two thirds said they had some curiosity about what the Bible says, while a third said they were "very" or "extremely" curious. 

When asked to choose their two greatest frustrations with regards Bible reading, over a quarter said they did not have any frustrations, but nearly the same proportion said, "I never seem to have enough time."

While this was a common issue across all age groups, the greatest frustration for both Gen Z (30%) and Millennials (26%) was "I don't know where to start". 

Among the "Bible Disengaged", nearly a quarter (24%) said, "I don't feel excited about using [the Bible]."

The findings released on Wednesday are based on responses from 2,598 adults across the US.

The annual report highlights cultural trends around faith and the Bible in the US and was produced in collaboration with NORC at the University of Chicago. 

"Our research clearly shows that when people read the Bible and apply its message, it brings them hope and introduces them to full life in Christ. That's why it's disheartening to see that millions of Americans have lost interest in the Bible. And millions more are struggling to connect Scripture to their daily lives," said John Farquhar Plake, ABS' Director of Ministry Intelligence.

"We can't tell how long this disruption will last, but we know that church leaders and other Bible advocates have a tremendous opportunity to help people in their communities understand and apply Scripture.

"Now is a critical time to point our neighbors to the good news of hope found in God's Word."