Millions of Americans who typically don't read a Bible opened one in 2020 as the world was facing a historic pandemic, according to a new survey.
The American Bible Society/Barna poll of 3,354 Americans, released Tuesday and conducted in January, found a 7.1 percent increase in 2020 over 2019 in the percentage of Americans who opened the Bible at least once. The survey estimates that 181 million Americans opened a Bible in 2020 compared to 169 million who did so in 2019.
The American Bible Society and Barna said Bible reading was "up significantly" in 2020.
The survey also revealed an increase in the percentage of Americans who regularly use the Bible.
In January, sixteen percent of U.S. adults said they read the Bible most days (at least four) during the week – an increase from 12 percent who answered that way one year earlier.
Additionally, the percentage of "Bible users" – a category that includes those who read it at least three to four times a year – increased to 50 percent in 2020 after falling to 48 percent in 2019, the latter being a 10-year nadir.
One in four (24 percent) Americans in January said they read the Bible more now than they did in 2019.
"Over the past year, Americans have faced a once-in-a-century pandemic – along with significant political and social unrest," said John Farquhar Plake, director of ministry intelligence for the American Bible Society. "However, our research shows that in the midst of incredible pressure, Americans are finding hope and resilience in the Bible. … There's an astounding opportunity right now for the Church to answer our nation's pervasive trauma and pain with the hope and healing of God's Word."
The percent of Americans who say they never use the Bible fell to 29 percent – its lowest point since 2016.
It's not only Christians who read the Bible: 37 percent of those "who self-identify with other religions" read the Bible at least three to four times a year, an analysis of the survey said.
"This suggests that many people of other religions are interested enough to interact with the Bible, at least occasionally," the analysis said.
Photo credit: Pexels/Oladimeji Ajegbile
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.