When Zack Domangue talks about world views with folks, the topic of the Bible typically inspires a host of questions.

"I think when you get to questions about the Bible, the biggest questions are can I trust it is legit?" said Domangue, president of Cal State Long Beach's Cru Club, formerly known as Crusade for Christ. "Is it the inspired word of God? Is it sacred and does it matter anymore? The values learned in the stories written down, can they be applied today? Is the Bible historically accurate? "

The 22-year-old business management major would answer yes to those questions. But an increasing number people aren't so sure.

Though the most popular book in the history of mankind recently got free advertising from a wildly popular cable miniseries, a new report shows rising antagonism toward the Bible.

A survey by the Barna Group and the American Bible Society shows 17 percent of adults in the U.S. have a negative attitude toward the Bible. That's up from 10 percent just two years ago, even as the History Channel miniseries "The Bible" drew 13.1 million viewers for its first episode in March, making it the most-watched entertainment cable telecast of the year.

The report defines antagonism as viewing the Bible only as a collection of stories and advice from men - and rarely or never reading it.

An upswing in negative views about the Scriptures may have less to do with its message and more with who is delivering it, according to Clint Jenkin, vice president of research for the Barna Group.

"What the Bible has become attached to is unpopular in society and politics," Jenkin said.

That could mean that Americans are associating the Bible with right-wing views on hot-button issues like gay marriage. Jenkin said the Scriptures are becoming more polarizing.

"Politically conservative Christians have not done themselves a favor by saying 'This is what the Bible says and why we stand against a certain issue,'" Jenkin said.

The Barna survey shows 88 percent of Americans own a Bible, down from 92 percent in 1993. Bible owners have an average of 3.5 copies of the Scriptures in their home, and 24 percent have six or more.

But while reverence for the Bible remains strong, with eight out of 10 adults seeing it as a sacred text, Americans are less apt to believe the Scriptures are relevant to their lives. The report found that 47 percent of American adults believe the Bible "contains everything a person needs to live a meaningful life." That number is down from 53 percent in 2011.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Barna Group found young people have a relatively high interest in the Bible's teachings on some aspects of life when compared with other age groups. Forty percent of those between the ages of 18 and 28 said they were interested in what the Bible teaches about dealing with illness and death, compared to 28 percent of all adults.

Domangue believes the Bible is still very relevant. He has read through the Scriptures and believes that the large amount of ancient biblical manuscripts supports the idea that the Bible gives an accurate historical account.

One of his favorite verses is Romans 1:16, which says "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. "

Jenkin said that even though interest in the Bible is relatively strong among young adults, their knowledge of it is the poorest.

"It's not an easy book to pick up and read and (understand)," Jenkin said.

Robert K. Johnston, professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, said the study reinforced a several-decadeslong direction of people expressing their interest in spirituality but shying away from institutional commitments to anything, including the Bible. And church.

"What it said to me was Americans continue to be a spiritual (and) religious people, (and) that the specific brand of spirituality continues to be overwhelmingly Jewish-Christian," Johnston said. "We are becoming increasingly anti-institutional in our expression of that spirituality. And that as younger people realize that the stability of life is becoming more fragile, they are desirous of spiritual resources. "

But as they look into the Bible, they will find difficult teachings they may not want to hear, Jenkin said.

"That cultural appreciation for the Bible may actually start to fade away because if millennials are really interested in the Bible, some may really like it (but) others may not, because once they know what's in there, it's harder to (accept)," Jenkin said.

As for the impact of the miniseries "The Bible," the Barna survey found that seven out of 10 viewers said it gave them a "surprise or new discovery" about the Scriptures that they weren't aware of before watching.

Christians across the country praised the miniseries for staying true to the biblical narrative. Johnston believes the success of the miniseries bodes well for future creative endeavors based on the Bible.

"When given an opportunity to learn something in a format or venue where they're comfortable, people watch," he said.

The Barna Survey also found 59 percent of Americans who identify as atheists own a Bible. Among them is Lee Parks, an active member of the Inland Empire Atheists, Agnostics and Skeptics Meetup Group.

He considers himself an evangelical atheist. Parks believes the Bible should be studied as literature that influenced both good and evil in the world.

To him, the Bible has a lot of good teachings that are overshadowed by atrocities and violence.

"God is the worst character of them all," Parks said.

"Accounts of a virgin giving birth and a messiah rising from the dead are just some in a series written to rule over folks who are easily led.

"I think it's a collection of stories that have stood the test of time," Parks said. "It doesn't mean they're true. It doesn't mean it isn't true. It's just what has stood the test of time throughout the 2,000 year history of the Telephone Game. "


Contact Josh Dulaney at 562-714-2150 | josh.dulaney@presstelegram.com | @JoshDulaney on Twitter