Disturbing post-9/11 apathy to faith

By UWE SIEMON-NETTO, UPI Religion Correspondent
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- Pollster George Barna has voiced alarm Thursday that Sept. 11 had not changed the beliefs and religious practices of most Americans.

"Surprisingly few people said the terrorist attacks had any impact on their faith," wrote Barna in his latest survey, which was taken on the eve of the aggression's first anniversary. "Only 12 percent admit to such an effect," he added.


"This is very disturbing," Barna said in a telephone interview.

Barna found it also surprising that 67 percent of a representative group of 1,256 adults polled said they planned nothing special to commemorate the Sept. 11 crisis. A mere 8 percent planned a prayer, 6 percent attending a religious service and 3 percent a special family gathering.

"People are just busy," remarked Barna, "they don't know any more what holidays -- such as Veterans' Day -- relate to which event. It seems we are so fast-paced that nothing can derail us from our agenda.


"Our minds have become like hard drives. We have to constantly erase files. That's why young people are asking, 'Are religious files relevant?'"

According to the poll, nearly half the people surveyed feel their faith was a critical resource in helping them to personally respond to the attacks. But while church attendance was up in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, it has since dropped back to its normal level.

This corresponds to a random United Press International survey of ministers, priests and rabbis in various parts to the country, who reported, however, that those who came to their services listened to sermons with a greater intensity than ever before.

New York clergymen also told UPI they noted "a hunger for God's word especially among young professionals."

The Barna survey contained one seemingly inexplicable contradiction. On the one hand, 41 percent of those who attend Christian churches told his pollsters that their congregation had done nothing since last September to address the attacks or their implications.

On the other hand, 58 percent responded their churches had done an "excellent" or "good" job addressing these matters. Of the non-Christians, 56 percent reported their temples, mosques or synagogues had ignored the attacks.


Of all the faith groups, only among the evangelicals did a majority (63 percent) say their faith was crucial to them in this traumatic time. Of the non-evangelical Christians, just 27 percent and of the non-Christians a mere 20 percent gave this response.

According to Barna, not a single significant change has occurred in the Americans' religious and moral core beliefs during the last 12 months:

1 -- "God is the all-powerful, all-knowing perfect creator of the universe, who rules the world today" -- 69 percent concur.

2 -- "The Bible is totally accurate in all its teachings" -- 61 percent agree.

3 -- "Satan is not a living being but is just a symbol of evil" -- 51 percent accept this unbiblical assertion.

4 -- "Eternal spiritual salvation can be earned by doing good deeds" -- 51 percent agree with this statement, which contrasts with Scripture and core Christian teachings.

5 -- "When he lived on earth, Jesus Christ committed sins" -- 40 percent believe this even though it runs counter the basic Christian message.

George Barna, whose research group has established itself as the pre-eminent Christian pollster taking the nation's religious pulse, sounded distressed when discussing his newest findings: "How many cataclysmic events will it have to take until we finally get it?"


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