Just 16 per cent of Americans said they would read the Bible as part of their daily routine when asked to choose between that and other activities while 37 per cent said they preferred drinking coffee, 28 per cent favoured having "something sweet" and 19 per cent preferred using social media.

Such are the findings of new survey commissioned by the American Bible Society for the State of the Bible report. But while it found coffee was the preferred "must-have" among the highest proportion of the general population, that wasn't the case among those most engaged with the Bible. Known as "Bible centred" adults (they represent nine per cent of the population and of them, 80 per cent say they use the Bible every day), a massive 61 per cent of them preferred the Bible over the other choices.

Bible and coffee

Bible and coffee - just 16 per cent of US adults said they would read the Bible as their daily "must have"; 37 per cent their daily coffee was most important. PICTURE: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

Roy Peterson, president and CEO of American Bible Society, said the findings showed many Americans "rightly recognised" that "while coffee provides a nice temporary jolt of energy, only the life-changing message of the Bible gives lasting hope and peace".  "The Bible provides the wisdom of the ages for today's fears, challenges and struggles," he said.

Other findings from the survey, conducted by the Barna Group, showed that aside from the "Bible centred" adults, some 17 per cent of US adults are classed as "Bible engaged" - reading the Bible at least weekly - while 15 per cent were "Bible friendly" - only eight per cent of this group use the Bible every day, 47 per cent once a week, 21 per cent once a month and 24 per cent once a year. Fifty-four per cent of the US adult population are classed as "Bible disengaged" with most of them not interacting with the Bible at all while just five per cent of adults are "Bible neutral" and interact with the Bible sporadically.

Of those who had read the Bible in the past month, more than half said it had led to a greater willingness to engage in their faith more and show more loving behaviour toward others. Some 42 per cent of the monthly readers also said they were more generous with their time, energy and financial resources as a result of reading the Bible.

Among those who had read the Bible at least three or four times in the past year, some 57 per cent said that whenever they use the Bible they have a greater awareness of how much they need God while 48 per cent said they experience a curiosity to know God better. Forty-seven per cent of this group also said using the Bible always gives them a sense of connection to God.

When asked to name what literature they considered sacred or holy, 79 per cent of Americans cited the Bible - a figure down slightly on last year's total of 82 per cent, while 42 per cent agreed strongly that the Bible contained everything a person needed to know to live a meaningful life. 

In response to a question about whether the Bible has too little influence on US society, 41 per cent indicated this was the case. But 31 per cent said it had just the right amount of influence (up from 27 per cent in 2017) and one in four said the Bible had too much influence (almost double the 2011 figure of 13 per cent).

A slight majority of US adults - 56 per cent - believe the US Constitution is more important for the moral fabric of the nation than the Bible while 44 per cent believe the Bible is more important. And 31 per of US adults said they found being called "immoral" to be more offensive than "intolerant" while 33 per cent found both equally offensive and 26 per cent said they didn't care about being called either word.

In terms of reading the Bible, 32 per cent of Americans said they believed the Bible to be the "inspired word of God" with no errors and with some verses meant to be symbolic, while 22 per cent said they believed it was the "actual word of God and should be taken literally, word for word". 

About four out of five adults said the US was in moral decline and almost half - 47 per cent - cite corporate greed as the culprit (up from 39 per cent last year). Less than one in five - 18 per cent - believe the decline is the result of a lack of Bible reading.