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Genevieve Shaker

Last modified: Wednesday, October 26, 2011

IUPUI center receives $507,000 Lilly Endowment grant for national study on the Bible

Oct. 26, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) a $507,000 grant to support a study on how Americans relate to the Bible in their everyday lives. The three-year project, "The Bible in American Life," is the first large-scale national study on the way scripture is read and interpreted in everyday life.

Farnsley and Thuesen

Arthur Farnsley (left) and Peter Thuesen

Print-Quality Photo

Three principal investigators and professors of religious studies at IUPUI will lead the study: Philip Goff, executive director of the center; Arthur Farnsley, associate director of the center; and Peter Thuesen, chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

According to Goff, the project is driven by the recognition that although the Bible has been central to both public life and Christian practice throughout American history, not much is known about how people read the Bible for themselves or how religious life and practice affect an individual's understanding of scripture.

"We do not know enough about how, where, when and why Americans use the Bible, especially any uses outside of worship services. Religious leaders are preaching and teaching (the Bible), politicians are quoting it, and many Americans say they believe it to be divinely inspired or even infallible, but claims about its use often contain conflicting information that can be difficult to interpret and reconcile," Goff said.

During the first stage of the study the grant will support research on scriptures tied to two leading scientific surveys, the National Opinion Research Council's 2012 General Social Survey, and Duke University's National Congregations Study. The second stage will involve an historical and cultural interpretation of the surveys by a team of scholars of the Bible in America. A white paper will be released in 2013, and a national conference with peer-reviewed papers will be held in Indianapolis in 2014.

Based at the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture comprises 40 scholars dedicated to examining the nation's mainstream and non-mainstream religions within their cultural and historical contexts. Through its studies, the center increases scholarly and public understanding of the nation's diverse faiths.

The recent Lilly Endowment award comes during the 400th anniversary of the first edition of the King James Bible. Generally considered the best-read and most-cited text in the English language, the King James Bible has had an immeasurable impact on secular, as well as religious culture.

"We are gratified that Lilly Endowment has been at the forefront of recognizing the importance of the ever-changing way that we, as Americans, live and practice our many beliefs, and examine ourselves as people of faith," said William Blomquist, dean of the School of Liberal Arts, in announcing the award.

For more information, contact the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at 317-274-8409, or visit