On this Easter Sunday, two new reports indicate antagonism toward the Bible is growing in the United States, and that Western Europe — where ancestors of most Americans hail — is the region of the world where the fewest respondents said religion plays a positive role in their country.
While 79 percent of Americans still identify the Bible as sacred, according to the American Bible Society’s fourth annual State of the Bible survey, antagonism toward the book has grown since 2011 from 10 to 19 percent of those surveyed.
Millennials (ages 18-29), the report says, are leading that shift, with 39 percent never reading it, 35 percent believing it contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life, only 30 percent stating it has too little influence in society and 19 percent concluding no literature (including the Bible) is sacred.
The 39 percent who never read it are emblematic especially of the generation but more of the larger state of the country.
After all, how do you find antagonism with the Bible if you never read it? How do you determine how to think about an issue if you don’t study it? How do you select a candidate for whom to vote without understanding what he or she stands for?
Today, you rely on what you are told by friends. You believe something because your favorite actress says she supports it. You read a headline on your smartphone. You hear a blurb on a fictional news show.
If it was on “The Colbert Report,” it must be true, right?
Sadly, fewer and fewer American think for themselves or even want to discover whether what they hear is right or wrong before acting upon it.
Indeed, wrong is a five-letter four-letter word in the United States today and one of the reasons antagonism for the Bible is growing.
Many Americans today don’t want to hear that what they do is wrong, has limits or comes with consequences.
And the Bible, of course, is not only full of love, poetry and beauty, and tells the story of the Resurrection of the savior Christians celebrate today, but also details some of the things people shouldn’t do.
Like murder, steal, commit adultery, have no other gods before the one God — that sort of thing.
But today, when a WIN/Gallup International survey shows only 4 percent of Western Europeans believe religion plays a net positive role in their lives, it’s easy to imagine Americans drawing closer and closer to that model.
Our selfie society, after all, desires to kill babies in the womb at will, treat lawbreakers better than victims, reward those who choose not to work and punish those who do.
And in the same breath ask, innocently, “What would Jesus do?”
But, thankfully, the new reports do have good news for those who revere the Bible, seek to live according to its principles and find solace in faith.
In the American Bible Society survey, 81 percent of all adults acknowledge morals are declining in America, and even 74 percent of millennials feel the same.
Fortunately, acknowledging a problem is one of the steps to fixing it.
Further, one in seven people reported buying a copy of the Bible in the last year, 28 percent read it every day or several times a week, and 42 percent felt peaceful, 33 percent felt encouraged and inspired, and 29 percent felt hopeful after reading it.
In the WIN/Gallup survey, 62 percent of respondents in the United States said religion plays a positive role in their lives, Africa was found to be the most net positive region globally (65 percent) and more than half (59 percent) of the 66,806 people polled across the world feel religion plays a positive role in their country.
So, even with all the negativity, especially on this day, Christians across the world can take solace in the words of Christ from the book of John: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”