How does reading the Bible change you?

Some people read the Bible nearly every day. Some people feel guilty that they don’t read it every day. Some people read it only to criticise it, while others never read it.

What effect does Bible reading have on the reader? Some recent surveys have some interesting findings.

What you might expect

The surveys, conducted in the US, found that regular private Bible reading is associated with opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and the belief that science helps reveal God’s glory but cannot solve humanity’s problems. This much we might predict.

But also

Perhaps less expected were the findings that regular private Bible reading is also correlated with:

  • reduced support for strong anti-terrorism legislation (the Patriot Act);
  • support for a more humane criminal justice system;
  • increased belief that science and faith are compatible;
  • increased support for social and economic justice;
  • increased concerns about over-consumption.

As I agree with all those positions, this is encouraging to me. It suggests that:

  • The stereotype of the redneck, socially conservative christian is not the whole story. Bible reading christians are more open-minded and humane than their non-reading brothers and sisters, perhaps simply because they may be more literate, but hopefully also because God is speaking to them through the scriptures.
  • Perhaps the non-readers are only nominal or cultural believers in a country where religion is still very pervasive.
  • It is extremely interesting that regular Bible reading correlates with the belief that science and faith are compatible – sceptics might have expected the opposite.
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