More Americans customizing religion, researcher says

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Sep. 13, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Is America really a nation of 310 million people with 310 million religions?

A religious researcher suggests Americans live in somewhat of a "designer society," in which an increasing number of people shape religion to fit their needs.

George Barna, an expert on religion statistics, wrote the new book Futurecast. In it he points to annual surveys conducted from 1991 to 2011 that show all but two major trend lines of religion have gone down in 20 years' time.

The exceptions? More people say they've accepted Jesus, and more people say they believe they're going to heaven.

However, more people also say they haven't been to church in the past six months except for special occasions, such as weddings or funerals. Barna refers to these survey respondents as "unchurched." In 1991, 24 percent were "unchurched;" today, it's 37 percent.

Barna also gauged people's belief according to seven essential doctrines defined by the National Association of Evangelicals' Statement of Faith. Only 7 percent qualified under those essential doctrines.

Barna told USA Today, "People say, 'I believe in God. I believe the Bible is a good book. And then I believe whatever I want.'"

Barna also told the paper for every subgroup of religion, race, gender, age and religion in America, the important markers of religious connection are fracturing.

He isn't the only one with research pointing to this trend of personally-tailored religion.

Lifeway Research, in a survey of Protestant pastors, found 62 percent believe the importance of identifying with a given domination will go down over the next 10 years.

E-mail: aadams@ksl.com

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