by David Closson , Molly Carman
June 22, 2021
Last year, the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, under the direction of George Barna, conducted a national survey that found only six percent of American adults have a biblical worldview. In light of this finding, Barna conducted another survey to examine the shift in faith commitments over the past few decades in America. The results of this new survey have now been published, and Barna shared the results with FRC’s Joseph Backholm on Washington Watch. Barna noted that the survey reveals alarming declines in generational commitment to any particular worldview, stating, “This represents the most rapid and radical cultural upheaval our nation has ever experienced.”
The Cultural Research Center previously released the results of three other worldview surveys conducted earlier this year:
- The first of these concluded that America’s dominant worldview is Syncretism, which isn’t actually a worldview at all but rather “a disparate, irreconcilable collection of beliefs” that people paste together to suit themselves.
- The second survey concluded that America’s most popular worldview is what can be called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Components of this worldview include: “belief in a God who remains distant from people’s lives” and “the universal purpose of life of being happy and feeling good about oneself.”
- The third survey found that Millennials are “substantially more likely” than previous American generations to “reject biblical principles in favor of more worldly spiritual perspectives and practices.”
The results of these surveys (which will be featured together in the 2021 edition of the Cultural Research Center’s annual American Worldview Inventory) provide a broader understanding of the state of worldview today and some of the most significant changes that have occurred over the years.
The survey discussed on Washington Watch concentrated on three areas—Hispanic faith, fastest-growing religious faiths, and Christianity’s status—and their associated worldview shifts over the past three decades (1991-2021). Barna remarked, “We have seen significant changes in the past, but I do not think that we have seen the quantity of change barreling down the freeway the way it is right now.”
Over the past three decades, George Barna has conducted a similar survey every year to assess worldview trends in America. Although the questions have not varied much year to year, Barna noted that when you consider the decline in biblical worldview and “you look at the combination of those factors, you get a pretty good sense of the heartbeat of America spiritually. And the changes there are so dramatic, that the size of those changes, the magnitude of the shift even surprised me a little bit.”
According to Barna’s research, Hispanics represent the fastest-growing demographic in America. Over the past 30 years, however, there has been a significant decrease in Hispanics who adhere to the Catholic faith, with a slight increase in Protestantism. Meanwhile, there has been a significant increase in what Barna refers to as the “Don’ts” (those who don’t believe, don’t know, or don’t care if God exists). The increase in those with no religious affiliation suggests that assimilation into American culture increasingly means assimilation into secularism. As Barna noted, “Frankly, the culture is impacting the Christian church and the Christian faith more than the Christian church or Christian faith are impacting the culture.” Notably, increasing belief in reincarnation, declining belief in a literal hell, and the pervading belief that people are basically good are other indicators that Christianity is losing influence in America.
One of the survey results Barna found most surprising is the growth of the Islamic faith in America: “When I started measuring that [the Islamic faith] 30, almost 40, years ago, there was virtually no presence of Islam in America,” explained Barna, “Now, we see that that has been growing, slowly but significantly, to the point where it is no longer just an asterisk in the reports. Now, it’s a significant faith group. Right now, in America, it appears that the number of Muslims here outnumber how many Jews we have in America,” he concluded.
The “Don’ts” have also grown significantly: from only 12 percent of the population in 2011 to 34 percent in 2021. Significantly, 43 percent of Millennials are considered “Don’ts” in Barna’s research, meaning they don’t believe or know if God exists.
Survey results like these are troubling; they reveal important trends in our culture with missiological implications. As George Barna explained, “[A] shared consensus of beliefs and values no longer exists. We are moving into a very different culture where people are saying, ‘I don’t want the Bible, I don’t want God, and I don’t want the church.’”
But even though our culture does not want the Bible, God, or the church, it is important for followers of Jesus to remain faithful. As fewer people share our theological and worldview commitments, Christians will need courage that was not required of recent generations of believers. Of course, standing for God’s truth in a world that is increasingly dark spiritually can be difficult, and it’s not easy to stand alone. Thankfully, we can rest in God’s promise for those who stay rooted in Him and His Word:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)