According to a Pew Research Center survey, black Americans are more likely than most other Americans to read Scripture regularly and to see it as the word of God. More than half of black people in America (54 percent) – both Christians and non-Christians – say they read the Bible or other holy scripture at least once a week outside of religious services. This compares with 32 percent of whites and 38 percent of Hispanics, according to data from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study. Few black people (24 percent) say they seldom or never read the Bible, compared with 50 percent of whites and 40 percent of Hispanics.
Among Christian denominations, 61 percent of those who are members of historically black Protestant churches (more than half of all black Americans) read Scripture at least weekly, which is similar to the level seen among those in the evangelical Protestant tradition (63 percent). In addition, those in the historically black Protestant tradition are more likely than Catholics (25 percent) and mainline Protestants (30 percent) to read scripture at least weekly, though less likely than Jehovah’s Witnesses (88 percent) and Mormons (77 percent).
A sizable share of all black people (77 percent) also say the Bible is the word of God (as opposed to having been “written by men”), compared with 57 percent of whites and 65 percent of Hispanics. Among those in the historically black Protestant tradition, 85 percent say they believe the Bible is the word of God, a level more comparable to that seen among those in the evangelical Protestant tradition (88 percent), Mormons (91 percent) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (94 percent) than among Catholics (64 percent) and mainline Protestants (62 percent).
At the Pew website, Jeff Diamant wrote:
“Black people overall are also more likely than people in other racial or ethnic groups to believe the Bible or other holy scripture should be interpreted literally. Roughly half (51%) of black Americans feel this way, compared with 26% of whites and 38% of Hispanics. Among those in the historically black Protestant tradition, 59% hold this view, compared with 24% of mainline Protestants and 26% of Catholics. On this issue, the views of those in the historically black Protestant tradition are more comparable to those of evangelical Protestants (55%).”
Earlier research by Pew characterizes black Americans as being more religious than other groups in the U.S.
According to Pew:
Roughly eight-in-ten (79 percent) African Americans self-identify as Christian, as do seven-in-ten whites and 77 percent of Latinos.
About of all African Americans (53 percent) are associated with historically black Protestant churches.
Smaller shares of African Americans identify with evangelical Protestantism (14 percent), the Catholic Church (5 percent), mainline Protestantism (4 percent) and Islam (2 percent).
Black Americans are more religious than whites and Latinos by many measures of religious commitment. Three-quarters of black Americans say religion is very important in their lives, compared with smaller shares of whites (49 percent) and Hispanics (59 percent).
Black Americans also are more likely to attend services at least once a week and to pray regularly.
Black Americans (83 percent) are more likely to say they believe in God with absolute certainty than whites (61 percent) and Latinos (59 percent).
The share of African Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated has increased in recent years, mirroring national trends. In 2007, only 12 percent of black Americans said they were religiously unaffiliated — that is, atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” By the time the 2014 Pew Landscape Study was conducted, that number had grown to 18 percent. As with other Americans, young black American adults are more likely than older black Americans to be unaffiliated. Three-in-ten (29 percent) African Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 say they are unaffiliated compared with only 7 percent of black adults 65 and older who say this.