Pollster George Barna, chief of research at the Cultural Research Center, has concluded that America is infected with “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” or for the layperson, “watered-down, feel-good, fake Christianity.”
Barna’s organization at Arizona Christian University has released a report explaining the beliefs first were identified among teens in the early 2000s, and now as adults, they still embrace them, making MTD “the most popular worldview in the United States today.”
WND earlier reported on another facet of the study results, which revealed that 94% of Americans don’t hold a biblical worldview, based on the responses people gave during half-hour individual interviews.
Nearly four in 10 adults, 38%, “are more likely to embrace elements of MTD” than other popular worldviews, such as biblical theism, secular humanism, postmodernism, nihilism, Marxism and its offshoot Critical Theory and Eastern Mysticism, the report said.
Three out of four accepting MTD, however, still claim to be Christian.
But 95% do not consider obedience to God to be success, 91% do not believe people are born into sin and need salvation through Jesus, 88% say they get most of their moral guidance from outside the Bible, and 76% say “good people” go to Heaven because they are, well, “good.”
“In this distorted version of Christianity the emphasis is on self rather than God, and on emotion rather than truth. Those who adopt MTD views believe in innate human goodness and kindness,” Barna explained. “They view God as a powerful but dispassionate observer who remains detached from human experience, unless circumstances make Him the solution of last resort. They believe that life is about individual happiness and that action producing positive personal outcomes gives meaning and purpose to life.”
He added, “MTD is more about believing in and promoting the best interests of self based on currently popular cultural thinking. Its proponents are not likely to prioritize knowing, loving, and serving a transcendent God.
“In their view, the local church exists primarily to offer supportive and upbeat community rather than worship, service, holiness, or a genuine relationship with God. And MTD is abundantly pluralistic, encouraging people to do whatever works or feels good rather than that which fits with biblical principles.”
Among those who express MTD beliefs, his report noted, 75% do not believe God is the basis of all truth, 74% believe in karma, 73% say having SOME religious faith is more important that WHAT faith, and 71% do not believe the Bible is the true communication from God.
The CRC’s “American Worldview Inventory 2021” explains Moralistic Therapeutic Deism was first identified by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton in their 2005 book, “Soul Searching: The Religions and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers,” and requires little from adherents, mostly:
- a belief in a God who remains distant from people’s lives
- people are supposed to be good to each other (i.e., moral)
- the universal purpose of life of being happy and feeling good about oneself
- there are no absolute moral truths
- God allows “good people” into Heaven
- God places very limited demands on people
“Other errant beliefs possessed by a majority of adults who are substantially influenced by MTD include that they do not believe in the creation story, reject the existence of absolute moral truth, deny the existence of the Holy Spirit and believe it is possible to reach complete spiritual maturity in their lifetime,” the CRC explained.
“Among racial and ethnic segments, Hispanics (more than 40% of whom are Catholic) showed the greatest alignment with MTD, with a majority of them (52%) drawing heavily or moderately from MTD perspectives. A significant age gap was evident in the research, as well, as those under age 50 were more than twice as likely as the 50-plus to find MTD appealing,” the report said.
“Barna contends that MTD is a worldview that is defined and driven by current culture more than by historic religious truths or a comprehensive and coherent doctrine. Consequently, this approach to spirituality asks little of its followers while providing the comfort, convenience, and community that those followers long for,” the CRC reported.
“The fact that a greater percentage of people who call themselves Christian draw from Moralistic Therapeutic Deism than from the Bible says a lot about the state of the Christian church in America, in all of its manifestations,” Barna warned. “Simply and objectively stated, Christianity in this nation is rotting from the inside out.”
The study is an annual report that looks at the worldview of the U.S. adult population. It uses several dozen worldview-related questions drawn from eight categories of worldview application, measuring both beliefs and behavior.
The survey was started in February among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults, providing an estimated maximum sampling error of approximately plus or minus 2 percentage points, based on the 95% confidence interval.
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