Believers Are No Better by Dan Barker (September 1999)

Are Christians more moral or successful than non-Christians?

The Second Coming Of The Church by George Barna (Word Publishing, 1998), reports that they are not. The author, a born-again Christian sociologist, is founder and president of Barna Research Group (CA), which releases many meaningful survey results.

Although most of Barna’s book is a sermon to Christian ministers on how the church should regain its lost status, it does contain some frank statistics showing how the present church has “failed” in its mission. The numbers are based on Barna’s own studies, and other national surveys.

Barna compares the behaviors and attitudes of Christians with Non-Christians (see tables below) and concludes: “We think and behave no differently from anyone else.”

Examples of the Similarity of Behavior Between Christians and Non-Christians

(from The Second Coming Of The Church, p 6, partial list)

Have been divorced (among those who have been married) Born Again Christians: 27%; Non-Christians: 23%

Gave money to a homeless person or poor person, in past year Born Again Christians: 24%; Non-Christians: 34%

Took drugs or medication prescribed for depression, in past year Born Again Christians: 7%; Non-Christians: 8%

Watched an X-rated movie in the past 3 months Born Again Christians: 9%; Non-Christians: 16%

Donated any money to a nonprofit organization, in past month Born Again Christians: 47%; Non-Christians: 48%

Bought a lottery ticket, in the past week Born Again Christians: 23%; Non-Christians: 27%

Attended a community meeting on local issue, in past year Born Again Christians: 37%; Non-Christians: 42%

Examples of the Similarity of Attitudes Between Christians and non-Christians

(from The Second Coming Of The Church, p 21, partial list)

Feel completely or very successful in life Born Again Christians: 58%; Non-Christians: 49%

It is impossible to get ahead because of your financial debt Born Again Christians: 33%; Non-Christians: 39%

You are still trying to figure out the purpose of your life Born Again Christians: 36%; Non-Christians: 47%

Satisfied with your life these days Born Again Christians: 69%; Non-Christians: 68%

Your personal financial situation is getting better Born Again Christians: 27%; Non-Christians: 28%

Barna also sheds light on the definition of “God” that most Americans claim to believe in:

“Since more than nine out of ten Americans own at least one Bible, and 86 percent call themselves Christian, you might expect people to pay homage to the deity described and followed by the Christian Church. In July 1997, we asked a nationwide sample of 1,012 adults to describe the God they believe in. Two out of three adults (67 percent) said they believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe who rules the world today. The remaining one-third described their god as ‘the total realization of personal, human potential’; or ‘a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach’; or said, ‘Everyone is God’; ‘There are many gods, each with different power and authority’; or ‘There is no such thing as God.’ The remaining 5 percent said they did not know.” [Pages 25-26]According to Barna, a third of Americans does not really believe in “God” at all.

In spite of all the sermons about how belief makes a difference in life, the numbers show that Christians are not better off than unbelievers. At least one born-again sociologist is honest enough to admit it.

Or did we know this already?

Dan Barker is a staff member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a former born-again minister.

Freedom From Religion Foundation