Franzen speculates the reason so little research has been done on the effects of reading Scripture may be because “the ubiquity of references to the Bible promotes the idea that we all know what it says and, consequently, reading it is simply a habitual and ultimately meaningless activity.”
But that is not true, according to his study using data from Christian respondents to the 2007 wave of the Baylor Religion Survey.
In many cases, Franzen found frequency of Bible reading was one of the most powerful predictors of attitudes on moral and political issues. Consider some of the findings:
- The likelihood of Christians saying it is important to actively seek social and economic justice to be a good person increased 39 percent with each jump up the ladder of the frequency of reading Scripture, from reading the Bible less than once a year to no more than once a month to about weekly to several times a week or more.
- Christian respondents overall were 27 percent more likely to say it is important to consume or use fewer goods to be a good person as they became more frequent Bible readers.
- Reading the Bible more often also was linked to improved attitudes toward science. Respondents were 22 percent less likely to view religion and science as incompatible at each step toward more frequent Bible reading.
- The issues seemed to matter more than conservative-liberal tags. In the case of another major public policy debate, same-sex unions, nearly half of respondents who read the Bible less than once a year said homosexuals should be allowed to marry, while only 6 percent of people who read the Bible several times a week or more approved of such marriages.
Among other issues, more frequent Bible readers also were more likely to oppose legalized abortion, the death penalty, harsher punishment of criminals and expanding the federal government’s authority to fight terrorism.
[…]But the results are consistent with some past research.
In a 1998 article in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, sociologists Mark Regnerus, Christian Smith and David Sikkink found that data from the 1996 Religious Identity and Influence Survey suggested that, contrary to “conventional wisdom,” conservative Protestants were among the most generous Christians in giving to the poor.
Surprise, surprise – reading the Bible makes people more moral.
I think we need to be open to letting our ideas about goodness, God and science be determined by what research shows, instead of what our feelings are. If science shows that atheists are generally more irrational and more amoral than believers, then we have to go where science leads. Not every atheist is irrational and immoral, but we have to believe what science tells us about atheism.
This study showing how authentic Christians get divorced less often than average is also interesting.