“The more deeply committed a person is to evangelical Christianity, the more at ease they report being with their life circumstances,” said George Barna of the California-based research organization. “On the other hand, individuals who are indifferent or hostile to all faith systems are notably less relaxed and fulfilled with life.”
The study, released Aug. 26, was based on telephone interviews this year with more than 3,000 randomly sampled adults in the 48 continental states.
Researchers divided the survey into five faith segments in order to explore the relationship between faith views and self-descriptions. The five segments included evangelical Christians, non-evangelical born-again Christians, notional Christians, adults affiliated with a non-Christian faith, and atheists and agnostics.
The study found that just less than 7 percent of the respondents claimed to be evangelical Christians, and of that 7 percent, 99 percent said they were “happy.” The Barna news report noted that “these individuals have become a political lightning rod and are routinely caricatured by the media” for their conservative views. Even so, 91 percent of evangelical Christians reported they were satisfied with their present life.
Of all five groups, evangelicals were least likely to say they are lonely, in serious debt or stressed out. The poll found 98 percent of them to be concerned about the moral condition of the country, though only 54 percent said they were worried about the future.
The group classified as non-evangelical born-again Christians were those who had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and believe they will experience eternal life because they have sought and received his forgiveness, but who do not share other central theological beliefs of evangelicals. One-third of the adults surveyed claimed to be non-evangelical born-again Christians.
Of that group, 73 percent described themselves as “deeply spiritual.” They also listed themselves as concerned about the moral condition of the country and “absolutely committed to Christianity.” Even so, the group was indistinguishable from non-Christians and nominal Christians in terms of stress, debt or addictions.
Nearly four of every 10 adults surveyed classified themselves as notional Christians, which means they consider themselves to be Christian but either do not have a personal commitment to Jesus Christ or do not believe that they will experience eternal favor with God based solely on his grace and mercy.
Notional Christians were most concerned about the future and the moral state of the nation, but their faith ties seemed to make little difference in relation to stress, debt, addictions, happiness or life satisfaction. They were also tied with atheists and agnostics in being the most lonely.
One of every eight adults surveyed said they are associated with faith groups other than Christianity. Of those, 57 percent described themselves as deeply spiritual. They were also among the least likely to be concerned about the future or the moral condition of the United States.
Atheists and agnostics comprised less than 8 percent of the adults surveyed and were the most likely to be stressed out, concerned about the future and lonely. Only 4 percent described themselves as politically conservative, and 71 percent claimed to have traditional or family oriented values.
“The data suggest that the more deeply committed to Christianity a person is, the more likely they are to experience greater self-confidence, peace and fulfillment,” Barna said.
The maximum margin of error for the survey was 3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
The Barna Research Group is an independent marketing research company located in southern California that has been studying cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.