It may come as no surprise that the influence of Christianity in the United States is waning. Rates of church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have all been dropping for decades. By consequence, the role of religion in public life has been slowly diminishing, and the church no longer functions with the cultural authority it held in times past. These are unique days for the church in America as it learns what it means to flourish in a new “Post-Christian” era.
Barna has developed a metric to measure the changing religious landscape of American culture. We call this the “post-Christian” metric. To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals must meet nine or more of our 16 criteria (listed below), which identify a lack of Christian identity, belief and practice. These factors include whether individuals identify as atheist, have never made a commitment to Jesus, have not attended church in the last year or have not read the Bible in the last week.
These kinds of questions—compared to ticking the “Christian” box in a census—get beyond how people loosely identify themselves (affiliation) and to the core of what people actually believe and how they behave as a result of their belief (practice). These indicators give a much more accurate picture of belief and unbelief in America.
According to Barna’s recent data, the most post-Christian city in America is Portland-Auburn, Maine (57%). In fact, New England and the Northeast—considered the foundation and home-base of religion in America—figure prominently: Eight of the top 10 most post-Christian cities are in this region. The next six cities on the list are Boston, MA-Manchester, NH (56%), Providence, RI-New Bedford, MA (53%), Burlington, VT-Plattsburgh, NY (53%), Hartford-New Haven, CT (52%), and New York, NY (51%). Next up are two big West Coast hubs: San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA (50%), and Seattle-Tacoma (50%).
Where does your city rank?
To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals had to meet nine or more of the following factors . “Highly post-Christian” individuals meet 13 or more of the factors (out of these 16 criteria).
- Do not believe in God
- Identify as atheist or agnostic
- Disagree that faith is important in their lives
- Have not prayed to God (in the last week)
- Have never made a commitment to Jesus
- Disagree the Bible is accurate
- Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
- Have not attended a Christian church (in the last 6 months)
- Agree that Jesus committed sins
- Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
- Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
- Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
- Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
- Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
- Bible engagement scale: low (have not read the Bible in the past week and disagree strongly or somewhat that the Bible is accurate)
- Not Born Again
About the Research
The data reported in this table are based upon telephone and online interviews with nationwide random samples of 76,505 adults conducted over a seven-year period, ending in April 2016. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is plus or minus 0.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The data in this study were analyzed by DMA. The label “DMA” stands for Designated Market Area and represents a unique geographic area that also serves as a commonly accepted media market as defined by The Neilsen Company. DMAs have been configured so that the entire U.S. is assigned to one – and only one – of 210 DMAs in the country and are based on the television viewing habits of the residents in each county. While there are 210 DMAs, this table contains data for the top 100 markets.
Barna research is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2017
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