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Sept. 11 attacks hardly influenced Americans’ spirituality, study says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Although nearly half the population says their faith was a critical resource in helping them respond to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a new Barna Research Group poll suggests that people’s religious beliefs and practices have not changed in the past year.

The survey also found that barely half of the nation’s churches acknowledged or addressed the attacks in any way. Only one of four adults who attend a Christian church said their church had engaged in specific prayer regarding the attacks, and fewer said their church had provided sermons or other teaching related to the attacks.

“None of the agents of influence seemed bent on seizing the attacks as a teaching moment or as a time to ignite deeper self-examination among Americans,” said George Barna of the California-based research organization. “For the most part, our response to the attacks has been to restore continuity and comfort as quickly as possible, without much energy devoted to moral, spiritual or emotional growth.”

The study, released Sept. 3, was based on telephone interviews during the past year with more than 6,000 randomly sampled adults in the 48 continental states.

According to the poll, 25 percent of adults said their faith has been the “single most important resource” they have relied on and an additional 23 percent said their faith has been “one of several important resources” that has helped them react to the attacks.

During the last year, there has been no lasting change in people’s religious practices, according to the Barna study. Immediately after the attacks, church attendance rose for several weeks and then fell back to normal levels by November. Research also showed virtually no change in levels of Bible reading, church attendance, prayer, adult Sunday School attendance and small-group involvement, while the percentage of unchurched adults has remained constant in the past 12 months at 33 percent.

“What we witnessed was the people who attend once every month or two suddenly returning on a consistent basis for a month or two before falling back into their regular pattern of irregular attendance,” Barna said. “It appears that very few people radically changed their personal agenda and added church involvement to their schedule when previously there had been no such activity.”

In addition, Barna monitored the opinions of Americans concerning 12 religious and moral beliefs during the past year and found no significant change in any of the beliefs. Some of the basic beliefs examined include “God is the all-powerful, all-knowing perfect creator of the universe who rules our world today,” “The Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings” and “Eternal spiritual salvation can be earned by doing enough good deeds.”

“I was among those who fully expected to see an intense spiritual reaction to the terrorist attacks,” Barna acknowledged. “The fact that we saw no lasting impact from the most significant act of war against our country on our own soil says something about the spiritual complacency of the American public.”

Sixty-seven percent of adults do not plan to do anything special to remember or commemorate the Sept. 11 crisis, the report said.

The maximum margin of error for the survey was 3.2 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.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BARNA ON 9/11’S IMPACT.

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  • Erin Curry