Americans More Versed In The Bible Than Europeans, Vatican Study Says

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Americans are more likely than Europeans to own and read a Bible, but Poles are most likely to have a basic knowledge of Scripture, the Vatican reported Monday.

The statistics are among preliminary findings of a study of Bible reading in the U.S. and eight European countries. An Italian market research firm produced the survey in preparation for an international synod of Catholic bishops to be held this October in Rome.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Europe

Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:03 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Hoskyns wrote:

Well… That’s not hard to do. As someone who has tried to teach Europeans religious studies at university, I well recall the second-year undergraduate (a convert to Islam) who told me she had never heard of St Paul until she took my course…. If anyone went to Sunday school here in living memory, it was usually your great grandmother. Christianity, let alone the Bible, is now no longer widely seen as a significant part even of the European past - as can be seen from the failed attempt to recognize that past in the preamble to the European constitution.  If readers of this blog care about the future of Christianity in this part of the world, PLEASE send missionaries to European schools and universities and businesses NOW or this continent will most certainly look like Gregory’s Turkey and Augustine’s Tunisia in 2008 before your children pass middle age. And in case you think that outcome wouldn’t harm the Christian tradition in America, think again. And read some history.

April 29, 1:27 pm | [comment link]
2. Brian from T19 wrote:

I would question the validity of the answers.  Americans think it is important to have read the Bible so they will say they have read at least one passage of Scripture.  A more accurate idea of how many read the Bible would be to have them write a passage or test them on common passages.

April 29, 1:46 pm | [comment link]
3. Milton wrote:

Brian, for once I agree with you!  (And wish we both probably weren’t correct about the actual ignorance of the Bible in the US)

April 29, 3:21 pm | [comment link]
4. The_Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

When asked seven basic questions about the Bible’s contents and authorship, 17 percent of Americans were able to answer all correctly

I would not really call that a reason to rejoice for being an American Christian.

April 29, 3:38 pm | [comment link]
5. Billy wrote:

#1, I know of programs that send missionaries to England, Scotland and Wales to re-establish Christianity in those countries.  I think there may be other similar programs for other European countries.

April 29, 5:30 pm | [comment link]
6. Philip Snyder wrote:

Does anyone know what the questions were?
Phil Snyder

April 29, 6:20 pm | [comment link]
7. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Hoskyns (#1),

I welcome your first-hand testimony.  I’ve heard lots of scary stories to similar effect about the radical secularization of much of Europe.

I wonder if you, or others here, would agree with many observers that one of the main reasons why the Christian faith and life is faring significantly worse in Europe than the U.S. (i.e., the de-Christianization much more advanced) is because of the state church factor.  That is, the competition resulting from the free religious marketplace in America has helped to keep all the churches more actively engaged in transmitting the basics of the faith.  It certainly is plausible.

But one sober, well-docuented study that offers hope, along with reason for urgent concern if not alarm, is Philip Jenkin’s recent book, “God’s Continent.”  Among other things, he notes that while lots of Muslim immigrants have indeed flooded into parts of Europe (hordes of Turks in Germany, Algerians in France etc.), there is a compensating factor often overlooked in the secular press, which is a large wave of Christian immigrants also flooding into Europe from the Global South, especially Africa.  But both Christianity and Islam face a dual threat in Europe that seems rather different than we’ve yet faced here on this side of the Atlantic.  First is a much more open and militant form of atheism (ala Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hutchins etc.).  But more troublesome to me is the degree of sheer indifference to religious matters that seems far more widespread and deeply engrained in Europe than here.  In many ways, apathy is harder to overcome than hostility.

David Handy+

April 29, 7:17 pm | [comment link]
8. physician without health wrote:

First off, David #7, you are right on.  Second and unrelated, I have a subscription to the British periodical The Economist, which to me is one of the finest English language newsmagazines, albeit wholly secular and not particularly friendly to Chrsitianity.  Interestingly, though, in spite of its hostility to church, the language of The Economist is suffused with expressions taken directly from Scripture (including very many that would not be recognized by the individual who only reads one verse per year).

April 29, 8:51 pm | [comment link]
9. CharlesB wrote:

This reminded me of two CS Lewis quotes, one about stdying history, the other about reading the bible.
From Learning In a Time of War:
“Most of all, perhaps we need intimate knowledge of the past.  Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet we need something to set against the present, to remind us that periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated are merely temporary fashion.  A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village: the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune form the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.”
And from Mere Christianity:
“. . . Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.
  The first step is to recognize the fact that your moods change.  The next is to make sure that, if you have accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day.  That is why daily prayers and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of Christian life.  We have to be continually reminded of what we believe.  Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain in the mind.  It must be fed.  And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument?  Do not most simply drift away?”

April 30, 7:00 am | [comment link]
10. Corie wrote:

I know longer go to any Episcopal or Anglican church now, but I used to. (I was a non-ACN conservative Episcopalian of DioFW who didn’t agree with Iker’s direction—sorry).

But when I DID go to Episcopal churches, I always had a better command of the Bible than the average Episcopalian, simply because I had come from a Southern Baptist household (very common in Texas). As many Episcopal converts with a Baptist background (“Episcobaptists”?) can attest, they probably are MUCH more comfortable with the Bible (except perhaps the Apocrypha) than many of their fellow parishioners, simply because it was part of their Baptist way of life to have a Bible, read it, know what books are where, what stories are where, have Bible drills, and memorize verses, and be able to find any passage pretty fast. Former Baptists don’t lose those skills just because they find themselves in a liturgical church.

Anyway, the point I’m getting it is that there are many more Christian groups here in America (not just Baptists) that put that kind of emphasis on knowing the Bible, so the idea that Americans are more versed in it than Europeans is actually quite expected, I think.

April 30, 2:36 pm | [comment link]
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