Making this the year of the Bible might make people read it

June 20, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More

Some in Congress are pressing to make 2009 the “National Year of the Bible.” As Politics Daily points out, such a pronouncement might encourage people to actually read the Bible before extolling its virtues. And lots of people do extol its virtues (93% of U.S. homes have at least one Bible). But do they read it? Polls suggest that it is not read often or well by millions of Americans:

A 2000 survey showed that even 60 percent of those chapter-and-verse-quoting Evangelicals thought Jesus was born in Jerusalem rather than Bethlehem. Similarly, a 2004 survey of high school students found that 17 percent thought “the road to Damascus” was where Jesus was crucified and 22 percent thought Moses was either one of Jesus’ 12 apostles or an Egyptian pharaoh or an angel. Half of high school seniors also thought Sodom and Gomorrah were married . . . But before you pile on the slacker generation, consider that one in 10 of all Americans believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, and 60 percent can’t name five of the Ten Commandments.

Image by Jjmaree at Dreamstime (with permission)

Image by Jjmaree at Dreamstime (with permission)

But here’s more:

Only three out of five Christians can recall the names of the first four books of the New Testament. Only half of the Christians polled correctly identified the person who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. And a full 42% of the Christians said that without the government’s laws, there would be no real guidelines for people to follow in daily life.

And more:

A Gallup survey shows that fewer than half of Americans can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis), only one-third know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount (many named Billy Graham, not Jesus), and one quarter do not know what is celebrated on Easter. . . A 1997 Barna Research poll showed [that] eighty percent of born-again Christians believe it is the Bible that says “God helps them that help themselves.”

These polls substantiate what I’ve been seeing and hearing. Many of the people who argue with me about religion (they come to my door a couple times each year) know almost nothing about the Bible. Most believers know absolutely nothing about the history of the Bible–how the Bible came to be the Bible. It’s a truly fascinating story and there’s no excuse that a Believer wouldn’t know many of the details. See this post on Bart Ehrman setting for many quotes mistakenly attributed to Jesus. Consider, also, a book I am currently reading, Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God, with makes a strong argument that Jesus didn’t really say, “Love your enemies” or extol the Good Samaritan. These stories were inserted many decades after the crucifixion (e.g., see p. 260).

I was raised Catholic and I know many Catholics (many of them good-hearted and thoughtful people). Almost none of them read the Bible with any familiarity. They hear passages on Sundays, but that’s about it. I’ve spoken to dozens of serious Catholics who have no idea that there are any contradictions in the Bible and they freely admit that they don’t read it on their own. So much for the “Word of God” among a large group (dozens) of educated and committed Catholics. If they really believed that the Bible was divinely inspired word of God, how could they possibly have time for anything else?

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Category: Education, ignorance, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    IMHO, a year of the Bible will be as effective in causing the populace to read and understand the Bible as Black History Month (February) is in causing us to read texts dedicated to Black History outside of school.

    Or possibly even as ineffective as Astronomy Day (e.g: Oct 24, '09) is in raising astronomical awareness.

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