Recent polls and surveys show a huge shift in religious identity in many areas across the country, with attendance at religious services lagging. According to one evangelical marketing group, the once faithful are now identified as "post-Christians," and Albany, New York is number one on a list of the most post-Christian cities in the United States.
Is the nation moving away from Christianity and other forms of conventional faith?
The Barna Group is a marketing research firm that for three decades has strategically tracked the role of faith in America, developing one of the nation’s most comprehensive database on spiritual indicators.
In efforts to explore the emerging post-Christian landscape of the nation, Barna completed an analysis of nearly 43,000 interviews conducted in recent years, based on residents of cities in nearly 100 major metropolitan areas across the United States. Interviewees were graded on 15 factors including "do not believe in God," "identify as atheist or agnostic," "disagree that faith is important to them," "have not prayed in the past year," "have never made a commitment to Jesus," and others.
According to the study, post-Christian cities met at least 60 percent of the 15 factors; highly post-Christian cities met 80 percent of them.
The top five most post-Christian cities include the Albany/Schenectady/Troy, New York metro area at 63 percent, Burlington, Vermont (60 percent), Portland, Maine (59 percent), Providence, Rhode Island (56 percent) and Hartford, Connecticut (54 percent). Other cities in the top 10 include San Diego, California; Buffalo, New York and Portland, Oregon.
John Shook is Education Director for the Center for Inquiry, in Amherst, New York (whose mission is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values) - Shook explains that many people continue to want a spiritual life.
Blake Rider, the rector of Christ Church in Poughkeepsie, says he's "okay with the landscape becoming post-Christian."
If the Barna study is accurate, spiritual leaders seeking to fill their pews with young churchgoers may have a tough road ahead. Dennis Donati, Pastor Emeritus at River of Hope Fellowship in Malta, Saratoga County, sees the survey as transparent. Donati says young people continue to trickle in to church and some ultimately become members.
According to Barna Group's metrics of post-Christian culture, more than seven out of 10 adults describe themselves as “Christian” and more than six out of 10 Americans say they are “deeply spiritual.”
Other Barna survey results relating to post-Christian America can be found here.