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Survey explores faith in America’s largest markets

A recent Barna Research Group survey finds that 67 percent of Alabamians can be classified as “Born Again,” landing that state on top with the highest concentration of born-again Christians in the United States. I posted on another Barna survey this month, one that concluded very few adults base their moral decisions on the Bible, or believe that absolute moral truth exists. [That study is rocking the evangelical world, even getting poor little Mike Seaver from “Growing Pains”, fundy Kirk Cameron, to whine that the flock is aimless.]

Barna’s new report, The Faith By Market, is a result of interviews with over 24,000 adults in the 86 largest metro areas and the 27 most populous states. The factors considered included a dozen religious beliefs, ten religious practices, various religious commitments and affiliations, and a dozen demographic attributes. Here’s a list of interesting highlights…

* Just 3 of the nation’s 25 largest metropolitan areas have a born again majority. However, 15 of the 27 mid-sized markets (adult population of a half-million up to one million) have a born again majority.

* The market with the highest percentage of adults who volunteer at a church during an average week is Salt Lake City. The market with the lowest rate of church volunteerism is Buffalo.

* Sunday school attendance among adults is most common in Salt Lake City, and least common in Portland, Maine.

* The market with the highest percentage of adults who consider themselves to be Baptist is Shreveport. The market with the highest percentage that claims allegiance to the Catholic church is Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The connection to the Methodist church is highest in Wichita, Kansas. Affiliation with a Lutheran church was greatest in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

* People are most likely to attend a large church in Houston. They are most likely to attend a church of less than 100 adults in Lexington, KY.

* Adults are most likely to claim they have a responsibility to share their religious beliefs with other people if they live in Birmingham, Alabama. That perspective is least common in Providence and Green Bay.

* The metro area in which adults are most likely to believe that Satan is a symbol of evil but not a living presence is the Brownsville-McAllen-Harlingen market in Texas.

* People are most likely to believe that they can earn their salvation if they live in Salt Lake City.

* The highest percentage of adults who believe that Jesus Christ sinned during his life on earth is in Des Moines, Iowa.

* Believing that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe who still rules it today” is most common in Tulsa. It is least predominant in Boston and San Francisco.

* The state with the highest percentage of its residents attending large churches is Arizona. Such behavior is least common in Missouri.

* The states with the lowest proportion of born again residents having shared their faith in Christ with a non-believer in the past year were Massachusetts and Tennessee. Personal evangelism efforts were most common in Alabama and Louisiana.

* The largest percentage of adults who are “notional Christians” – that is, those who consider themselves to be Christian but are not born again – are found in Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

* One out of every six residents of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington are atheist or agnostic – nearly double the national average. Atheists and agnostics are hardest to locate in Louisiana and Missouri.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding