INDIANAPOLIS — Registration is now underway for a national conference that will culminate a three-year Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis study of how — outside of religious services – – Americans use the Bible in their daily lives.
Noted historian Mark Noll of the University of Notre Dame will deliver a conference plenary address. Noll will present “The Bible: Then and Now” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, at Christ Church Cathedral, 125 Monument Circle. Conference registration is not required for the plenary address, which is open to the public.
“While the Bible has been central to Christian practice throughout American history, many important questions remain unanswered in scholarship,” said Philip Goff, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, which is part of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.
Those unanswered questions include how people read the Bible for themselves, how denominational and parachurch publications have influenced interpretation and application, and how clergy and congregations have influenced individual understandings of scripture, the director said.
“These questions are even more pressing today, as denominations are losing much of their traditional authority, technology is changing people’s reading and cognitive habits, and subjective experience is continuing to eclipse textual authority as the mark of true religion,” Goff said. “Understanding both the past and the future of Christian communities in the United States depends, even if only in part, on a serious analysis of how these cultural shifts are affecting Americans’ relationship to the Bible.”
Earlier this year, the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture released a report about the Bible’s use based on a national survey of American Bible reading. During the upcoming conference, historians, sociologists, political scientists, seminary professors and religious leaders will offer analyses of the Bible in daily life that complement the report’s findings and will put those findings about the Bible’s use in a broader context.
Among the report’s many findings:
There is a 50/50 split among Americans who read any form of scripture (the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, etc.) in the past year and those who did not.
Among those who read any form of scripture in the past year, 95 percent named the Bible as the scripture they read.
Despite the proliferation of Bible translations, the King James Version is the top choice — and by a wide margin — of Bible readers.
The strongest correlation with Bible reading is race, with African Americans reading the Bible at considerably higher rates than others.