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Posts from the ‘Barna’ Category

State of Atheism in America

Barna Research just released a report entitled, “2015 State of Atheism in America.” The study interviewed 23,000 adults, of which 8,220 were unchurched. For the purposes of this study, Barna combined atheists and agnostics into one group and called this group, “skeptics.”

The research revealed that there have been some demographic shifts among skeptics in America over the past 20 years. Today:

  1. Skeptics are younger. Today, 34 percent of skeptics are under 30 years old. This is nearly double the percentage from 20 years ago. Additionally, the percentage of skeptics that are 65 years old or older has shrunken by half, to 7 percent today.


  1. Skeptics are educated. 20 years ago, one third of skeptics were college educated. Today, half of skeptics have a college degree.
  1. Skeptics include more women. The percentage of women that are skeptics is 43 percent, nearly triple the 16 percent of women skeptics in 1993.
  1. Skeptics are more diverse. 20 years ago, whites comprised 80 percent of skeptics. Today, whites represent 74 percent of skeptics. There has been an increasing percentage of Hispanic and Asian skeptics.
  1. Skeptics are more regionally diverse. In 1993, 43 percent of skeptics lived in the West. Today, that percent has shrunk to 30 percent, indicating that skeptics are dispersed more evenly across America.

Some observations:

  • It seems that skeptics are becoming increasingly representative of America—better educated and more diverse. This makes sense. Today, it is more difficult to “peg” atheists and agnostics into a preconceived hole. Skeptics represent every race, gender, and economic status.
  • There is a rising tide of younger skeptics. Although the percentage of the Millennial generation in America accounts for some of the rise in skeptics under 30, it does not adequately describe why the percentage of skeptics in this age group has doubled. On average, younger Americans are simply becoming more skeptical of Christianity.
  • The large increase among women skeptics is a surprise. It used to be that more women attended church than men by a ratio of 9 to 1, but that ratio is rapidly decreasing.

What can we do to address the state of atheism in America?

Related Posts
Global Decline of Religiosity
State of Churches in America

Top Bible-Minded Cities in 2015

Each year, the Barna Group and the American Bible Society rank the top Bible-minded cities. The 100 largest cities are ranked according to their levels of Bible engagement. Bible-mindedness is determined by how often people read the Bible and how accurate they consider the Bible to be. The latest results are shown in the graphic below.


As you can see, the top five Bible-minded cities are in the South. The most Bible-minded city is Birmingham, Alabama, with 51 percent of the population qualifying as Bible-minded. Chattanooga, Tennessee, Tri-Cities, Tennessee, Roanoke, Virginia, and Shreveport, Louisiana round out the top five.

At the other end of the spectrum, Providence, Rhode Island is the least Bible-minded city, with 9 percent of the population qualifying as Bible-minded. Albany, New York, Boston, Massachusetts, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and San Francisco, California comprise the rest of the five least Bible-minded cities. New York fell to the bottom 10 this year.

From this study, it is clear that the “Bible-belt” of the South remains to be an accurate designation. The least Bible-minded cities are generally in the Northeast, but also include a scattering of some cities in the West—San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

What other observations can you make from the state of Bible-minded cities in the United States?

Barna Group also has information on individual cities.


Related Posts
Dominant Christian Groups by US Counties
Boom or Bust? State of the Church in America

How Important is Church Attendance?

How important is church attendance? Americans are split on the issue, according to a new study by the Barna Research Group. Half (49%) say it is “somewhat” or “very” important; the other half (51%) say it “is not too” or “not at all” important.

In fact, when nearly 4,500 respondents in the study were asked what helps them grow in their faith, church attendance was not even mentioned as one of the top ten reasons.

Why do Americans attend church services? The top two reasons cited were to be closer to God (44%) and to learn about God (27%). Only 10 percent of respondents said they were looking for community.


Why do people not attend church services? The two top answers were that they find God elsewhere (40%) and church is not relevant to them personally (35%).

bu-032514-info4The study revealed differences between generations of people. 40 percent of people over 68 years old view church attendance as very important, but only 20 percent of those 30 and under believe it is important. Millennials do not attend church for three main reasons: irrelevance, hypocrisy, and the moral failures of church leaders. 20 percent of Millennials feel that God is missing in church.

What can the church learn from this study? First of all, we need to find ways to make the church more relevant to people’s lives. We need to offer help to people who are hurting, marginalized or lonely. We need to stop judging people but accept them like Jesus accepted us. He died for us while we were sinners (Rom. 5:6). Additionally, we need to be more authentic in both our relationships with people and in the church gathering.

Jon Tyson writes about what this data means for Americans in Frames: Sacred Roots. He says in the video below, “We crave to be loved; we crave to be known; we craved to be accepted. If we don’t find that in a community of grace, where else are we going to find it in the world?”


What else can we learn from this study?


Related Posts

Twenty Tips to Keep Your Church Safe From Visitors

31 Reasons Why Men Don’t Go to Church


Divorce Rates Higher Among Christians

Christians have higher divorce rates than non-Christians, according to a study by the Barna Research Group. A study of 3,854 people indicated that, in general, the average divorce rate among self-identified “born-again” Christians (27%) is higher than the average rate for all Americans (25%). Baptists have the highest divorce rate of any denominational Christian group, at 29 percent.


George Barna explained that his study is lower than the oft-cited 50 percent divorce rate because this percentage simply divides the number of marriage by the number of divorces each year.

Similar studies reflect Barna’s findings. The most recent U.S. Census revealed that the divorce rate is higher in the “Bible Belt” states than in other areas of the U.S. The divorce rate for men, for example, was between 10 and 13.5 per 1,000 in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. The national average for men is 9.2 per 1,000.


The study also revealed that only 21 percent of atheists have been divorced.

Why is the divorce rate higher for Christians than the national average? Following are some of the speculated reasons:

1. Cultural Accommodation.  A resolution entitled, On the Scandal of Southern Baptist Divorce, published by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2010, stated that cultural accommodation has been the cause of recent increased divorce rates. In other words, the contention is that divorce is being viewed as a viable option to resolving marital problems instead of adhering to biblical standards.

2. Gender Inequality. This is addressed in an article by Wendy Francisco entitled, Why Are Divorce Statistics So High? She says that the church has attempted to control marriages through its traditional teachings on gender roles in marriage.  Francisco insists that “The reason we have the highest divorce rate” is because of our “heavy teachings on ‘Biblical order,’ and submission.”

In research for their  book, Empowering Couples: Building on Your Strengths (2000), David H. and Amy K. Olsen discovered that 81 percent of couples with egalitarian roles in their marriages were happily married, but only 18 percent of couples were happy in marriages with traditional roles.

graph percentage happily married

3. Lack of Spiritual Commitment. Focus on the Family’s Family Formation Studies Director, Glenn Stanton, said, “Church affiliation means nothing.” He explained that there is a difference between those who are simply affiliated with a church and those who are actively practicing their faith.

What can churches do to reverse the divorce trend? Some ideas:

1. Teach On Healthy Marriages. Barna said that the research, “raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families.” Instead of focusing on traditional gender roles, we can teach what it means to be in a healthy marriage. The Love and Respect curriculum is a good start to understanding God’s foundational principles in marriage.

2. Provide Enrichment Opportunities. Too often, churches push difficulties in marriages under the rug until it is too late. Southern Baptists, for example, are taking the divorce issue seriously. In their resolution they resolve to ramp up their efforts to educate their people through marriage retreats, “counseling, mentorship, and, where necessary, through biblical church discipline.”

3. Promote Spiritual Guidance. We need to urge people to seek marital help through prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual disciplines immediately. There needs to be a constant reminder that “God hates divorce” (Micah 2:16) and is pro marriage. With God, all things are possible!
Why do you think divorce rates are higher for Christians?
How can that be changed?

Related Posts
The Effect of Religion on Divorce
Divorce in America [Infographic]


State of the Bible 2013

The State of The Bible 2013 is a study that was conducted by the Barna Group. The infographic below, based on the research, reveals that most Americans see the value in the Bible and Bible-based curriculum in schools.

What else strikes you from the infographic?

state of the bible

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