Half of Americans who call themselves “Christian” don’t believe Satan exists and fully one-third are confident that Jesus sinned while on Earth, according to a new Barna Group poll.
Another 40 percent say they do not have a responsibility to share their Christian faith with others, and 25 percent “dismiss the idea that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches,” the organization reports.
Pollster George Barna said the results have huge implications.
“Americans are increasingly comfortable picking and choosing what they deem to be helpful and accurate theological views and have become comfortable discarding the rest of the teachings in the Bible,” he said.
“Growing numbers of people now serve as their own theologian-in-residence,” he continued. “One consequence is that Americans are embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs.”
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The results are a dramatic departure from the nation’s foundings, when leaders held prayer meetings in the halls of Congress and attributed to Almighty God the victory in the Revolutionary War.
Barna noted the millions of people who describe themselves as Christian and believe Jesus sinned, or those who say they will experience eternal salvation because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior, “but also believe that a person can do enough good works to earn eternal salvation.”
Barna’s private, non-partisan, for-profit research group in Ventura, Calif., has been studying cultural trends since 1984. For this study, the organization randomly sampled 1,004 adults across the continental U.S. The study has a margin of error of 3.2 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
For the study, “born-again Christians” were defined as people who said they had made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that was still important in their life today and who also indicated they believed that when they die they will go to heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.
The results highlight the significant shift in beliefs held by Americans, the study said.
“For much of America’s history, the assumption was that if you were born in America, you would affiliate with the Christian faith,” the report said. Now however, “half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from and that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination’s slate of beliefs.”
Fifty percent of Americans believe Christianity no longer has a lock on people’s hearts. Two-thirds of evangelical Christians (64 percent) and three out of every five Hispanics (60 percent) embraced that position, making them the groups most convinced of the shift in America’s default faith.
In contrast, the poll showed the importance of belief was growing along with the number of options about what to believe.
“By an overwhelming margin – 74 percent to 23 percent – adults agreed that their religious faith was becoming even more important to them than it used to be as a source of objective and reliable moral guidance.”
Forty percent of respondents who do not affiliate with Christianity confirmed the increasing influence of their beliefs.
The result “underscored the fact that people no longer look to denominations or churches to offer a slate of theological views that the individual adopts in its entirety,” the report said.
By a margin of 71 percent to 26 percent adults “noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church,” the report said.
Nearly two-thirds of “born again Christians” adopted that stance.
“In the past, when most people determined their theological and moral points of view, the alternatives from which they chose were exclusively of Christian options – e.g., the Methodist point of view, the Baptist perspective, Catholic teaching, and so forth,” Barna noted. “Today, Americans are more likely to pit a variety of non-Christian options against various Christian-based views. This has resulted in an abundance of unique worldviews based on personal combinations of theology drawn from a smattering of world religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam as well as secularism.”
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