According to a new study led by the noted Christian pollster George Barna, only 6% of Americans adhere to a Biblical worldview, while 88% borrow from multiple and sometimes contradictory worldviews in order to form their beliefs and habits.
The American Worldview Inventory 2021, conducted in February—among a representative sample of 2,000 adults by Barna and the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University— found the most prevalent belief system for Americans is “syncretism,” a “cut-and-paste approach to making sense of, and responding to, life.”
The study compared seven worldviews: Biblical theism (or Biblical worldview); secular humanism; postmodernism; moralistic therapeutic deism; nihilism; Marxism (along with critical race theory); and Eastern mysticism (or New Age).
“The big winner, of course, was ‘none of the above,’” Barna said in a news release announcing the study results. “In total, almost nine out of 10 U.S. adults (88%) have an impure, unrecognizable worldview that is a blending of ideas from multiple perspectives.”
Often, respondents leaned toward a particular worldview more than others, but only 12% would be considered adherents of one specific worldview, meaning both beliefs and behavior corresponded to a given belief system.
Among the seven major worldviews cited, the Biblical worldview at 6% was the most prevalent. “However, with 94% of Americans essentially rejecting the Biblical worldview as their preferred way to think and live, placing first in a race in which few people crossed the finish line is hardly a victory,” Barna added.
The study’s criteria required participants to both believe and practice a certain number of tenets of a given worldview to fall in line with that worldview. So even though 31% of the respondents “lean either strongly or moderately” toward Biblical theism, only 6% satisfied the criteria in both belief and behavior.
The next most prevalent worldview in belief and behavior was secular humanism (2%), followed by moralistic therapeutic deism, postmodernism and nihilism, each with 1%. Marxists, according to the study criteria, make up only one-half a percent, as do New Agers.
The 88% practicing syncretism may be sympathetic to Biblical Christianity or a type of moralism-deism (39%), but their overall beliefs and behaviors show a mishmash of worldviews woven together to make sense of the world.
Barna says the study shows the critical role doctrine and worldview should play in the church and how “knowing a few Bible verses, attending church services, and praying won’t get the job done.”
“Our studies show that Americans are neither deep nor sophisticated thinkers. … Most people seem more interested in living a life of comfort and convenience than one of logical consistency and wisdom. Our children will continue to suffer the consequences of following in the unfortunate footsteps of their parents and elders. People who are willing to fight for a more reasonable way of thinking and acting can make a difference, but it will be slow progress.”