The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at IUPUI will host the Conference on the Bible in American Life, the culmination of its three year study of how Americans use the Bible in their daily lives, outside religious services. In addition to sixteen sessions, the conference will include a public plenary talk by noted historian Mark Noll on “The Bible: Then and Now.”
This project seeks to provide the first large-scale investigation of the Bible in American life. The study is meant to recognitize that, though the Bible has been central to Christian practice throughout American history, many important questions remain unanswered in scholarship, including how people have read the Bible for themselves outside of worship, how denominational and parachurch publications have influenced interpretation and application, and how clergy and congregations have influenced individual understandings of scripture. 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. 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 released its report based on a national survey of American Bible reading. Among its many findings the study discovered:
There is a 50/50 split among Americans who read any form of scripture in the past year and those who did not.
Among those who read any form of scripture in the past year, 95% 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.
Bible readers consult scripture for personal prayer and devotion three times more than to learn about culture war issues such as abortion, homosexuality, war, or poverty.
Among Bible readers, 31% read it on the Internet and 22% use e-device.
Less than half of those who read the Bible in the past year sought help in understanding it. Among those who did, clergy were their top source; the Internet was the least cited source.
The Conference on the Bible in American Life will offer analyses of the Bible in daily life that complement the report. Talks by historians, sociologists, political scientists, seminary professors, and religious leaders will help to put today’s situation in its broader context.
Seating for the Conference is limited and pre-registration is required. Registration before July 15 is $50; after July 15 it is $70. You can view the report and the conference schedule, as well as register for the Conference, at the Center’s website:
The Sheraton City Centre Hotel is located in downtown Indianapolis. For those wishing to stay at the conference hotel, please contact the Sheraton City Centre Hotel directly at 317-635-2000 or visit its website for room information.
On Thursday evening, August 7, noted historian Mark Noll of the University of Notre Dame will deliver the public plenary address at Christ Church Cathedral, 125 Monument Circle, at 7:30pm. Registration for this keynote talk is not required.
The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture was established in 1989 to explore the connection between religion and other aspects of American culture. It is a research and public outreach institute that supports the ongoing scholarly discussion of the nature, terms, and dynamics of religion in America. As a program of the IU School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, the Center pursues its aim as part of the mission of humanities and social science learning. It seeks to elevate among students, faculty, and the larger American public the understanding of the influence of religion in the lives of people. More information about the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture and its programs is available on its website.