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Barna on Diversity of Faith in US Cities

America is anything but “secular.” We are a religious, mystical, “spiritual” country. But how does this differ from city to city, and region to region? The Barna Group did a “study of regional and city-level expressions of faith [that] both confirms and rejects many popular stereotypes about faith and religion in America.” Head over to their website for the details. I’ll share a few highlights below.

The cities with the highest percentage of residents who describe themselves as Christian are in the South. Shocking, I know. They include: Shreveport (98%), Birmingham (96%), Charlotte (96%), Nashville (95%), Greenville, SC / Asheville, NC (94%), New Orleans (94%), Indianapolis (93%), Lexington (93%), Roanoke-Lynchburg (93%), Little Rock (92%), and Memphis (92%).

The cities with the lowest percentage of self-identified Christians were in: San Francisco (68%), Portland, Oregon (71%), Portland, Maine (72%), Seattle (73%), Sacramento (73%), New York (73%), San Diego (75%), Los Angeles (75%), Boston (76%), Phoenix (78%), Miami (78%), Las Vegas (78%), and Denver (78%). Barna points out that even in these cities that’s roughly 3 out of every four people aligning with Christianity.

One of the interesting findings is that some markets have a much higher percentage of skeptics. In both Portland, Maine and Seattle, WA 19% of the population identify as being atheist or agnostic. It drops to 16% in Portland, Oregon, Sacramento, CA, and Spokane, WA. Compare this with those cities that have a high proportion of faiths other than Christianity. For example, New York (one of the cities with the lowest representation of self-identifying Christians) reports 12% of the population shares a religious faith other than Christianity.

The article summarizes one aspect of the findings, stating, “Nearly three out of four people call themselves Christians, even among the least ‘Christianized’ cities. Furthermore, a majority of U.S. residents, regardless of location, engage in a church at some level in a typical six-month period.”

There is much more in the article touching on politics and outreach, so head over there and read the whole thing. Then come back here to talk about it.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches; trained pastors and church planters on six continents; earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates; and he has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the Editor-in-Chief of Outreach Magazine, and regularly writes for news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves at his local church, Highpoint Church, as a teaching pastor. Dr. Stetzer is currently living in England and teaching at Oxford University.