July 21, 2011

How Many Christians Have Read Their Bible?

BibleI cannot help wondering what percentage of self-identified Christians in the United States have read their bible from cover to cover. I suspect that if more had read it, there would be fewer Christians. Once one realizes what the book contains, it becomes considerably more difficult to insist that it is "holy." No, this isn't a post about religious literacy, although that is certainly relevant. And it is not a post about how most Christians do not appear to believe much of what their bible says. Instead, I am suggesting that most of what many Christians think they know of their bible comes from sources other than reading it for themselves.

Consider the following:
  • Much of what many Christians know of their bible is based on what others have told them (e.g., their parents, their clergy) about what it says.
  • Most sermons I have heard in church involve some element of clergy explaining to the laity what certain passages in the bible mean.
  • Dumbed-down and incomplete bibles are used in many Sunday schools and youth outreach programs.
  • Bible study groups abound, which typically involve someone interpreting the bible (i.e., communicating to participants or readers that it often means something different from what it says).
So what percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christians have read an adult version of the Christian bible by themselves from cover to cover without someone else paraphrasing or interpreting it for them? My guess is that this number is probably no greater than 20%.

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