The number of U.S. adults who read the Bible saw an “unprecedented drop” in early 2022, according to the State of the Bible 2022 report published by the American Bible Society on April 6.
While 77% of U.S. adults have a Bible, the percentage of adults who are “Bible Users” – people who read the Bible on their own outside of a church setting at least 3-4 times a year – dropped 11 percentage points to 39% in 2022.
This represents a 25-million-person decline to 103 million Bible Users since last year.
Since 2011, the percentage has ranged from a low of 48% (2020) to a high of 53% (2014), with an annual average from 2011-2021 of 50%. During this time, the total number of Bible Users ranged from a low of 118 million (2011) to a high of 129 million (2014), with an average of just under 124 million.
Respondents were placed into three groups determined by responses to a series of 14 questions that look at frequency of Bible use, as well as the impact of the Bible on respondents’ lives in terms of their relationships and their choices. The groups are:
- Scripture Engaged: “The Bible impacts their daily lives, helps guide their relationships with God and others, and they regularly read/listen to/engage with the Bible.”
- Movable Middle: “These people range from those who sporadically interact with the Bible on the low end, to those who periodically open the Bible as a source of spiritual insight and wisdom.”
- Bible Disengaged: “Those who fit this category interact infrequently with the Bible, and it has minimal influence in their lives.”
The number of Bible Disengaged respondents rose 45 million to 145 million from 2021 to 2022, while the Movable Middle dropped 29 million to 66 million and the Scripture Engaged declined 15 million to 49 million during this time. This was the first time since 2018 that the number of Bible Disengaged respondents increased.
Overall, 60% of respondents said they read the Bible twice a year or less – 8% 1-2 times a year; 12% less than once a year; 40% never.
By comparison, 40% read the Bible three times a year or more – 7% 3-4 times a year; 7% once a month; 5% once a week; 7% 2-3 times a week; 4% 4-6 times a week; 10% daily.
When asked to voice their frustrations related to Bible usage, the highest percentage of Boomers (22%), Elders (22%) and Generation X (29%) was not having enough time.
Among Millennials, the highest percentage of respondents were tied at 26% for “not enough time” and “not knowing where to start,” while not knowing where to start was the most common response among Generation Z (30%).
Among all generations, bringing them closer to God was the most common response for why they read the Bible: Generation Z (44%), Millennials (41%), Boomers (40%), Generation Z (38%) and Elders (35%).
The full report is available here. The margin of error for the data is plus or minus 2.51 percentage points.