Seeing How Much Religion Matters

When people describe the U.S. as a deeply religious society, the adjective rings truer than the adverb. Sure, Americans are more religious than their counterparts elsewhere in the developed world. But in increasing numbers of cases, their beliefs and practices have come to look like just another form of self-expression, leaving us to wonder how deeply it is felt. A poll by The Barna Group sheds some light on the matter. While large majorities of Americans routinely tell pollsters that religion is important to them, just a shade over half of the Barna respondents (51 percent) said that faith has “greatly transformed” their lives. As the chart below indicates, the number varies widely from place to place (and from gender to gender). At the opposite end of the spectrum, 17 percent of respondents risked the proverbial bolt of godly lightning by saying religious faith has made no difference whatsoever in their lives. Among adults under age 25, 35 percent said religion has played no role in their lives. Asian-Americans were vastly more likely than other ethnic cohorts to say that religious faith hasn’t made any personal difference to them, with 48 percent expressing this opinion.