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Barna: Little Evidence for Changed Church, Believers

Despite speculation by many Americans that religion is changing in America, recent Barna research indicated that the church remains relatively unchanged in the past decade. Church attendance, Bible reading and belief in God have remained steady, Barna reported.

The Barna study examined eight different measures of faith and found that adults perceive their personal faith, and the role of faith in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />United States, to be changing. However, perception may not match reality.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 
Sixty-six percent of adults said they thought religion was “losing its influence in American society,” according to the study. But 9-11 caused a slight jump in these figures. 
Even though many Americans see religion as becoming less influential in society, 70 percent contend that their own faith is “consistently growing deeper.”  
However, the statistics don’t necessarily support these claims. 
Denominational affiliation has remained relatively unchanged. That means there aren’t many folks church hopping. 
Catholics have hovered in the 22 to 31 percentile, averaging about 25 percent of Americans. Baptist have shown little fluctuation, remaining steady in the 16 to 20 percent range, with one out of five adults calling themselves Baptists, the study showed. 
Also, there has been little discernable growth in non-denominational Christian churches. Ten years ago, this group accounted for about 4 percent of the population. Today the numbers are almost statistically identical at 5 percent. 
Mainline Protestant denominations seem to be the only group to have experienced a significant slide, with their numbers dropping from about one in five adults a decade ago to one in eight today. 
Personal faith commitments seem to be holding steady as well, according to Barna.
“About half of the adults (48%) who consider themselves to be Christian say they are ‘absolutely committed’ to the Christian faith,” Barna reported. “Such commitment is more common among those who attend a Protestant church (50%) than among those who attend a Catholic church (43%).”
The Barna research confirmed what many critics have suggested: “Little is changing in the religious realm, despite a lot of discourse regarding new models of church experience and the need for a deeper faith commitment.”
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.