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New Survey: All Our Spiritual Dialogue Isn't Doing Much

BY RELEVANT FAITH / GOD / ISSUE 49 January 01, 2011

Technology has gone crazy in the past decade and with it our ability to communicate. The amount of public dialogue on a variety of issues—including belief and religion—has skyrocketed. So how is all this communication affecting people’s lives?

Apparently, not much. According to a 2010 survey by Barna Group, all that discussion and debate hasn’t really changed what people believe.

Only 7 percent of those surveyed admitted to any change in their religious beliefs, practices or preferences during the past five years.

Adults younger than 26 are most likely to report change (13 percent). In contrast, adults over the age of 65 are least likely (3 percent). “The ages of 18 to 29 are the crossroads,” says David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group. “The time in life when people—if they are going to do it—are most likely
to rethink their spirituality. Though people often become more spiritually minded as they get older, they don’t change very much in terms of spirituality. They tend to stay committed to faith perspectives that have served them for decades.”

Among those who did report change, only one third said they’d experienced an increase in religious commitment and practice. Sixteen percent said they’ve moved away from Christianity, and 8 percent said their religious activity has decreased. The primary reason? The clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.

So while it may feel like people are talking more than ever, so little reported effect raises questions about the quality of those conversations.

“No one wants to be stuck in their faith journeys,“ Kinnaman says. “But the vast majority of Americans are surprisingly inflexible. We need better methods of trying to go outside our standard frames of reference. This might be travel to learn about another culture. This might include making friends with someone outside our comfort zone. It may be having a conversation with an older person or someone who is out of the ordinary for us. It could be reading books or resources. We need to be willing to be stretched and see lifelong learning as part of our calling as Christ-followers.”

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