A new report from George Barna’s Cultural Research Center (CRC) reveals what Barna describes as the most radical religious and cultural shifts of American beliefs of the past 40 years. Those “upheavals,” says Barna, are “causing monumental changes within our nation’s historically stable religious alignments.”
The “American Worldview Inventory 2021” report, released on Tuesday, points to several troubling trends, including consistent 30-year declines in Christianity and confidence in religion. “In its first 200 years, America could count on the consistency of its people’s faith commitments, and with that, common views about morality, purpose, family, lifestyle, citizenship, and values,” says Barna. “But as my recent worldview research clearly shows, the United States has become one of the largest and most important mission fields in the world.”
American Beliefs: Other Faiths Attract More Americans
Four key spiritual indicators have drastically decreased in the past 30 years, according to the report. In 1991, 86% of U.S. adults held a biblical view of God, but now just 46% do. Belief in the Bible as “the accurate Word of God” fell from 70% in 1991 to 41% in 2021. And the percentage of Americans who believe they’ll go to heaven because they accept Jesus as their personal Savior fell from 36% in 1991 to 30% in 2021.
Meanwhile, the number of Muslims in the United States has increased from less than one-half of one percent in 1991 to almost three percent today. And about five percent of American adults now identify with Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, more than double the number from 10 years ago.
The well-documented rise of the “Nones” also is impacting Hispanic Americans, a group that had been largely Catholic. During the past three decades, the percentage of Hispanic adults in the United States who identify as Catholic has declined from 59% to 28%. Meanwhile, 31% percentage of U.S. Hispanics now identify as “Don’ts” (saying they don’t know, don’t care, or don’t believe that God exists), compared to just three percent in 1991.
Churches Must Reimagine Evangelism Efforts, Says George Barna
With fewer U.S. adults holding to traditional Christian beliefs, interest in reincarnation is growing. Although this is especially true among Millennials, Christians of all ages are embracing the concept. More than one-third (36%) of self-identified Christians say they believe reincarnation is a real possibility for them.
Another finding is a plummeting level of confidence in religion. Today, only 40% of U.S. adults say they have high confidence in religion, compared to two-thirds of U.S. adults in the 1970s.
These trends in American beliefs offer Christians and church leaders abundant, close-to-home mission opportunities, Barna says. But he adds this caveat: “As I see it, Christian ministry as practiced [in America] for the last five decades will be ineffective in meeting these new challenges.”
Looking ahead, he says churches need to “invest most heavily in reaching children and equipping their parents,” offer a solid foundation of “absolute moral truth,” reimagine typical church services and programs, and “foster bold and creative leadership.” Barna adds, “Like never before, I believe we will need to reimagine and increase our efforts to strategically transform this new cultural landscape with biblical truth.”