The Barna Group has released a “Year-in-Review Perspective” on religion in America for 2009. Here’s a brief summary (taken directly from the Barna Report’s article, please read the complete article linked to above (and browse Barna’s website too!) if you’re as interested as I am.
Theme 1: Increasingly, Americans are more interested in faith and spirituality than in Christianity.
Some of the related survey results Barna cited from this year’s studies included:
o Just 50% of adults contend that Christianity is still the automatic faith of choice in the US
o Nearly nine out of every ten adults (88%) agreed either strongly or somewhat that their religious faith is very important in their life.
o 74% said their faith is becoming more important in their life
o Substantive awareness of other faith groups is minimal; even simple name awareness of some groups, such as Wicca, is tiny (only 45% have heard of Wicca)
o Most self-identified Christians are comfortable with the idea that the Bible and the sacred books from non-Christian religions all teach the same truths and principles
o Half of all adults (50%) argue that a growing number of people they know are tired of having the same church experience
Theme 2: Faith in the American context is now individual and customized. Americans are comfortable with an altered spiritual experience as long as they can participate in the shaping of that faith experience.
Some of the survey findings that related to this theme included:
o About half of all adults (45%) say they are willing to try a new church or even a new form of church
o 71% say they will develop their own slate of religious beliefs rather than accept a package of beliefs promoted by a church or denomination
o Three-quarters of adults (75%) believe that God is motivating them and others to connect with Him through different means and experiences than were common in the past
o Barely one-third of self-identified Christians (36%) strongly agree that it is important for followers of Christ to maintain positive relationships with people who are not Christians
o Two-thirds of adults (64%) are willing to experience and express their faith in new or different environments or structures than they have in the past
o Only one-third (34%) believe in absolute moral truth
Theme 3: Biblical literacy is neither a current reality nor a goal in the U.S.
Some of the survey-based results that led Barna to his conclusions included the following:
o 68% of self-identified Christians have heard of spiritual gifts, a decline in the past decade; a minority (roughly one-third) can actually identify a biblical spiritual gift they claim to possess
o Less than one out of every five born again adults (19%) has a biblical worldview, which is unchanged in the past 15 years
o Just half of all self-identified Christians firmly believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles (not the facts, just the principles) that it teaches
o Barely one-quarter of adults (27%) are confident that Satan exists
o Less than four out of every ten self-identified Christians firmly accept the teaching that a person can be influenced by spiritual forces, such as angels or demons
o An overwhelming majority of self-identified Christians (81%) contend that spiritual maturity is achieved by following the rules in the Bible
o Only 4% believe that poverty is an issue that is primarily the responsibility of the Church
Theme 4: Effective and periodic measurement of spirituality – conducted personally or through a church – is not common at this time and it is not likely to become common in the near future.