Last Updated: 28/04/2008  18:37

Americans are among the world’s most "Bible-literate" people and Spaniards, French and Italians are among the most ignorant about what the Bible says, according to a new study released today.

A poll carried out in nine countries – the United States, Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Spain and Poland – also showed Americans were most willing to donate money to spread the message of the Bible.

The poll for the Catholic Biblical Federation interviewed Christians and non-Christians ahead of a synod of Roman Catholic Bishops on the Bible due to be held at the Vatican in October.

Most respondents in the poll, which was presented at the Vatican, were Christian. Except for in the United States, Britain and Russia, most of the Christians respondents were Catholic.

Asked if they had read a phrase from the Bible in the past 12 months, 75 per cent of American respondents said yes, while between 20 per cent and 38 per cent of respondents in the other eight countries said yes.

The lowest were Spain with 20 per cent, France with 21 per cent, Italy with 27 per cent, and Germany with 28 per cent.

Results were similar when respondents were asked if they had read a book with a religious theme in the past 12 months. 58 per cent of Americans said yes. Poland was second with 50 per cent and the other countries came in between 22 and 35 per cent.

The poll, taken by the GFK-Eurisko research group, showed Americans prayed the most (87 per cent) and the French the least (49 per cent).

Americans, Britons, Dutch, Germans, Spaniards, Poles and Russian tended to pray "with my own words" whereas Italians and French tended to recite prayers they had memorized.

Germany and the Netherlands had the highest percentage of respondents who said they believed the Bible was not divinely inspired but just "an ancient book made up of legends, historical facts and teachings written by man".

The majority of respondents in all countries believed it was either the direct word of God or inspired by God.

Americans were the largest group who said they had a Bible at home (93 per cent) and the French were the lowest (48 per cent).

The French were the most opposed to teaching the Bible in schools whereas the Americans were split about evenly.

Poland had the highest percentage of those who said they attended religious services regularly (91 per cent), followed by the United States with 77 per cent and Russia with 75 per cent.