The End of the Absolute: America's New Moral Code - Barna Group (2023)

Christian morality is being pushed out of American social structures and the mainstream cultural scene, leaving a void in its place, and culture in general is trying to fill the void. New research by Barna shows growing concern about the nation's moral state, even as many American adults admit they are unsure how to tell right from wrong. So what do Americans think? Is truth relative or absolute? And do Christians view truth and morality in radically different ways than the general public, or are they equally influenced by the rising tide of secularism and religious skepticism?

A majority of American adults of all ages, races, genders, socioeconomic statuses, and political affiliations express concern about the moral state of the nation: eight in ten overall (80%). For older people (89%) and baby boomers (87%), the ratio is closer to nine in 10, while about three-quarters of Gen Xers (75%) and Millennials (74%) expressed concerns. Likewise, practicing Christians (90%) are more likely than adults with no faith (67%) or those who identify with a religious faith other than Christianity (72%) to say they are concerned about the moral state of the nation. Although there are measurable differences between population groups, moral concerns are widespread in all population groups.

Far less common, however, is the consensus on morality itself. What is it based on? Where does it come from? How can anyone know what to do when making moral choices? According to the majority of American adults (57%), knowing what is right and wrong is a matter of personal experience. This opinion is much more widespread among the younger generations than among older adults. Three-quarters of Millennials (74%) strongly or somewhat agree with the statement “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know,” compared with just 38% of older people. And Millennials (31%) are three times as likely as Seniors (10%) and twice as likely as Boomers (16%) and Gen-Xers (16%).starkagree with the statement.

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When it comes to religion's influence on this issue, active Christian faith is associated with greater disagreement about past moral feelings: the proportions of practicing Christians who disagree (59%) and agree (41%) that the only truth who may know what is right for one's life are the opposite of the general population (44% disagree, 57% agree). The difference is even more pronounced when comparing practicing Christians (41%) to unbelieving adults, two-thirds of whom (67%) agree that the only truth one can know is the one that is right for one's life .

A significant number of Americans view morality as a matter of cultural consensus. About two-thirds of all American adults (65%) either totally agree or somewhat agree (18% and 47%, respectively) that "every culture must determine what is acceptable morality for its people." Again, millennials (25%) are more likely to be affected than seniors (16%), baby boomers (14%), or Gen Xers (16%).starkagree with this opinion.

While most American adults agree that culture plays some role in setting moral standards, most also agree that "the Bible gives us absolute moral truths that are the same for all people everywhere in all situations, without exception." “ (59%). There is broad agreement across age groups, which is surprising given the striking generational differences on other moral issues. When it comes to faith groups, unsurprisingly, practicing Christians (83%) are much more likely to agree than others, especially those without a faith (28%). In fact, more than half of practicing Christiansstarkagree (56%).

The End of the Absolute: America's New Moral Code - Barna Group (2)

Two-thirds of American adults believe that moral truth depends on circumstances (44%) or have not given much thought to it (21%). On the other hand, about a third believe that moral truth is absolute (35%). Millennials are more likely than other age cohorts to say that moral truth is relative; In fact, half of them say so (51%), compared to 44% of Gen Xers, 41% of Boomers, and 39% of Seniors. Across generations, boomers are more likely to say moral truth is absolute (42%), while seniors are more likely than other age groups to admit they've never thought about it (28%).

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Practicing Christians (59%) are almost four times as likely as non-believing adults (15%) to believe that moral truth is absolute. Those with no faith (61%), on the other hand, are twice as likely as practicing Christians (28%) to say it depends on the circumstances. Americans of non-Christian faiths are about on par with the national average on this issue.

The End of the Absolute: America's New Moral Code - Barna Group (3)

Profundice con good faith

The new moral code1
Americans are concerned about the nation's moral state.jconfused about morality itself. If nominally Christian standards of morality are discarded, what, if anything, takes their place? Barna's research shows the extent to which Americans pledge allegiance to the "self-actualization morality," a new moral code that, like David Kinnaman, President of Barnaargues, has all but replaced Christianity as the culture's moral norm.

The self-actualization ethic can be summed up in six guiding principles, as shown in the table below.

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The End of the Absolute: America's New Moral Code - Barna Group (4)

1The "New Moral Code" material is adapted from David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons,Good Faith: Being a Christian when society thinks you are irrelevant and extremist(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016).

What the research means
"The highest good, according to our society, is to 'find yourself' and then live by 'what's right for you,'" said David Kinnaman, President of Barna Group atGood Faith: Being a Christian when society thinks you are irrelevant and extremist.“There is enormous individualism in today's society, which is also reflected in the Church. Millions of Christians have grafted New Age dogma onto their spiritual personalities. If we peel off the layers, we find that many Christians use the way of Jesus to follow the path of self... While we wring our hands at the spread of secularism through culture, most ecclesiastical Christians have embraced corruption and adopted self defense. centered theology.

"So there seems to be a dichotomy among practicing Christians in the United States," Kinnaman continues. “Most believe that the Bible is the source of moral standards that transcend a person's culture and that these moral truths are absolute and not dependent on circumstances. At the same time, solid majorities adhere to five of the six principles of the new moral code. This ubiquitous cognitive dissonance, both among practicing Christians and among Americans in general, is another indicator of the cultural shift Barna has noted over the past two decades. But it also represents an opportunity for leaders and mentors willing to educate people, especially young people, towards deeper wisdom and discernment."

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About the research
Study August 2015:The study on which these findings are based was conducted from August 17 to 21, 2015 using online surveys. A total of 1,000 interviews were conducted. The sampling error is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. The completion rate was 66%.

Study July 2015: The study underlying these results was conducted from July 3-9, 2015 via online surveys. A total of 1,237 interviews were conducted. The sampling error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Millennials: Born between 1984 and 2002
Buster/Generation X: Born between 1965 and 1983
Boomer: Born between 1946 and 1964
Elsewhere: Born between 1945 and before

another belief: identifying with a non-Christian faith or identifying as a Christian but stating beliefs inconsistent with historical orthodox Christianity
Without faith: Identifying as agnostic or atheist or as a non-believer
Practicing Christian: Those who attend church services at least once a month, who say their faith is very important in their life, and who identify as Christians.

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About the Barna Group
Barna Group is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the Issachar Companies umbrella. Based in Ventura, California, Barna Group has conducted and analyzed primary research since 1984 to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.

© Grupo Barna, 2016.


What is the Barna research Group? ›

Barna Group is a research firm dedicated to providing actionable insights on faith and culture, with a particular focus on the Christian church.

What is the moral code of Christianity? ›

Christians acknowledge not only a duty to announce the gospel, profess the faith, and worship God but also to live their entire lives according to God's will.

Does morality depend on religion? ›

Religion and morality are not synonymous. Though religion may depend on morality, and even develop alongside morality, morality does not necessarily depend upon religion, despite some making "an almost automatic assumption" to this effect.

Is Christianity declining in the US? ›

America's Christian majority is facing steep declines

A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that America's Christian majority has been shrinking for years, and if recent trends continue, Christians could make up less than half the U.S. population within a few decades.

What is Barna mission statement? ›

Barna Group provides spiritual influencers with credible knowledge and clear thinking, enabling them to navigate a complex and changing culture.

What is the main moral code? ›

A universal moral code is a set of rules that are generic enough to be good for everyone as a foundational framework, and can be interpreted in such a fashion to fit everyone successfully, such as, 'do good' and 'do no harm. ' These are very broad guidelines that still provide a general foundation for a good life.

What is our moral code? ›

A moral code is a set of rules or guidelines that a person or group of people follow in order to live a life that is good. Moral codes are heavily dependent upon culture. The moral code that we live by influences many parts of our lives and often dictates how we act, how we dress, and even how we treat other people.

What does God require of us? ›

"What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Does morality apply to God? ›

God approves of right actions because they are right and disapproves of wrong actions because they are wrong (moral theological objectivism, or objectivism). So, morality is independent of God's will; however, since God is omniscient He knows the moral laws, and because He's moral, He follows them.

What if a person does not believe in God? ›

Technically, an atheist is someone who doesn't believe in a god, while an agnostic is someone who doesn't believe it's possible to know for sure that a god exists. It's possible to be both—an agnostic atheist doesn't believe but also doesn't think we can ever know whether a god exists.

Are Christians more moral? ›

This finding has now been confirmed in numerous laboratory and field studies. Overall, the results are clear: No matter how we define morality, religious people do not behave more morally than atheists, although they often say (and likely believe) that they do.

Which religion is declining the fastest? ›

Over the coming decades, Christians are expected to experience the largest net losses from switching. Globally, about 40 million people are projected to switch into Christianity, while 106 million are projected to leave, with most joining the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated.

How many Christians are left in the US? ›

Christianity is the most prevalent religion in the United States. Estimates from 2021 suggest that of the entire U.S. population (332 million) about 63% is Christian (210 million).

What's the fastest growing religion in the world 2022? ›

Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world.

What are the 3 key points of the mission statement? ›

The three components of a mission statement include the purpose, values, and goals of the company.

What are the 3 missions of the Church? ›

Information. President Spencer W. Kimball outlined the three major elements of the mission of the Church: proclaim the gospel, perfect the Saints, and redeem the dead.

How does Barna define biblical worldview? ›

BARNA: A worldview is something that everybody has. Most people don't even realize it, but essentially it's just the decision making filter that we use. It's the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual filter that helps us to understand and interpret and respond to every reality that we experience.

Does everyone have a moral code? ›

Everyone everywhere shares a common moral code. All agree that cooperating, promoting the common good, is the right thing to do. ' The study tested the theory that morality evolved to promote cooperation, and that – because there are many types of cooperation – there are many types of morality.

What are the 4 main moral standards? ›

The Fundamental Principles of Ethics. Beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice constitute the 4 principles of ethics. The first 2 can be traced back to the time of Hippocrates “to help and do no harm,” while the latter 2 evolved later.

How does Barna define a biblical worldview? ›

BARNA: A worldview is something that everybody has. Most people don't even realize it, but essentially it's just the decision making filter that we use. It's the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual filter that helps us to understand and interpret and respond to every reality that we experience.

What is the purpose of a church cell group? ›

Cell groups are generally intended to teach the Bible and personalize Christian fellowship. They are always used in cell churches, but also occur in parachurch organizations and other interdenominational settings, where they are usually referred to as such as Bible study groups.

What does the CRC church believe? ›

The Church promotes the belief that Christians do not earn their salvation, but that it is a wholly unmerited gift from God, and that good works are the Christian response to that gift. Reformed theology as practiced in the CRC is founded in Calvinism.

What does World Outreach church believe? ›

Our Beliefs

There is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is God's Son, born of the Virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, willingly took upon Himself all of our sins, died and rose again bodily, and is at the right hand of the Father.

What percentage of pastors believe the Bible? ›

And among Teaching Pastors, the level of biblical worldview is a mere 13%.

What percent of Americans are true Christians? ›

A Pew Research Center study shows that as of 2020, about 64% of Americans identify as Christian. Fifty years ago, that number was 90%. SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST: Since its founding, the United States has been a majority Christian nation.

How many true Christians are there? ›

TraditionFollowers% of the world population
Other Christianity28,430,0000.4
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