The Barna group, a Christian polling firm, has released its latest list of the most “post-Christian” cities in the country. It’s meant to serve as a warning, but it nicely doubles as a map of places you wouldn’t mind moving to one day. (Notice the lack of cities in the Deep South.)
To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals must meet nine or more of our 16 criteria (listed below), which identify a lack of Christian identity, belief and practice. These factors include whether individuals identify as atheist, have never made a commitment to Jesus, have not attended church in the last year or have not read the Bible in the last week. These kinds of questions — compared to ticking the “Christian” box in a census — get beyond how people loosely identify themselves (affiliation) and to the core of what people actually believe and how they behave as a result of their belief (practice). These indicators give a much more accurate picture of belief and unbelief in America.
In other words, these are the cities where religion is most likely to be considered an afterthought. 20 of them have a post-Christian “score” of 50% or greater — only 10 cities fit that description two years ago — and many are found in the Northeast and West Coast.
That list of criteria makes for a nice checklist, too. What’s your score?!
- Do not believe in God
- Identify as atheist or agnostic
- Disagree that faith is important in their lives
- Have not prayed to God (in the last week)
- Have never made a commitment to Jesus
- Disagree the Bible is accurate
- Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
- Have not attended a Christian church (in the last 6 months)
- Agree that Jesus committed sins
- Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
- Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
- Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
- Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
- Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
- Bible engagement scale: low (have not read the Bible in the past week and disagree strongly or somewhat that the Bible is accurate)
- Not Born Again
Barna offers this as a resource. It’s descriptive, not prescriptive. They don’t say these numbers need to change, only that this is the way it is, and Christians who wish the percentages were lower ought to know where the godless are located.
Frankly, I don’t see why the numbers would change in their favor. Cities that are “post-Christian” are also diverse and accepting of people that Christians have routinely rejected. An evangelical shot of misinformation, bigotry, and lack of reason doesn’t work when people already have immunity.
But at least it gives Godless Americans a goal. The highest market on the list, Springfield-Holyoke, Massachusetts, only has a score of 66%. That includes 87% of people who haven’t read the Bible in the past week, 65% who haven’t attended a Christian church in the past six months, and 47% who haven’t prayed to God in the past week.
We can do better than those numbers. Dream big, everybody.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)