Most U.S. Christians don't believe Satan, Holy Spirit exist
Nearly six out of ten Christians either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement that Satan "is not a living being but is a symbol of evil," the survey found.
Forty percent strongly agreed with the statement while 19 percent of American Christians somewhat agreed.
In contrast, about 35 percent of American Christians believe Satan is real. Twenty-six percent strongly disagreed with the statement that Satan is merely symbolic and about one-tenth (9 percent) somewhat disagreed.
The remaining eight percent of American Christians responded they were unsure what to believe about the existence of Satan.
Interestingly, the majority of Christians believe a person can be under the influence of spiritual forces, such as demons or evil spirits, even though many of these same people believe Satan is merely a symbol of evil. Two out of three Christians agreed that such forces are real (39 percent agreed strongly, 25 percent agreed somewhat).
Likewise, most Christians in the United States do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force. Fifty-eight percent strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that the Holy Spirit is "a symbol of God's power or presence but is not a living entity."
Only one-third of Christians disagreed with the statement that the Holy Spirit is not just symbolic (9 percent disagreed somewhat, 25 percent disagreed strongly). Nine percent expressed they were unsure.
Interestingly, about half (49 percent) of those who agreed that the Holy Spirit is only a symbol but not a living entity, agreed that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. The Bible states that the Holy Spirit is God's power or presence, not just symbolic.
"Most Americans, even those who say they are Christian, have doubts about the intrusion of the supernatural into the natural world," commented George Barna, founder of The Barna Group and author of books analyzing research concerning America's faith.
"Hollywood has made evil accessible and tame, making Satan and demons less worrisome than the Bible suggests they really are," he said. "It's hard for achievement-driven, self-reliant, independent people to believe that their lives can be impacted by unseen forces."
But a large majority of American Christians agree that a person must choose to side with either good or evil. More than six out of ten American Christians strongly agreed (61 percent) with the idea that a person must either side with God or with the devil - that there is no in-between position. Another 15 percent somewhat agreed.
Just one out of ten adults disagreed somewhat (10 percent) and a similar proportion (11 percent) strongly disagreed. Only a few adults (3 percent) did not have an opinion on the issue.
Added: Thursday, 16 April 2009, 12:05 (IST)
The article is confusingly written with regards to grammar. Barna apparently has some problems understanding what the word 'Christian' means. If someone rejects the Blessed Trinity; that person is not a Christian. If someone rejects the fact that Jesus is fully God and fully Man without sin in either nature; that person is not a Christian. This is no personal opinion of mine. It is universally understood and definitional.
Steve Schaper, Heartlandia
Added: Thursday, 16 April 2009, 17:15 (IST)
Barna should poll born-again Christians, not Christians by name only. I'm sure it would change the results. Barna seems to have an agenda to paint "most" American Christians a certain way. Polling "Christians" who don't attend church or demonstrate daily commitment to Christ is not an accurate way. No one in the church I pastor has ever been polled by Barna, and "most" of them do believe what the Bible says to be true.
US Pastor, US
Added: Thursday, 16 April 2009, 18:24 (IST)
Barna lets the people in the survey "self-identify" as Christians. His term for these individuals is "notional Christians," which he distinguishes in the survey from "Born again Christians." You can go to his website to check out the differences between the two. What this article does show is that churches in America are not doing a satisfactory job in communicating a Biblical worldview.
Michael Scott, Webster, NY USA
Added: Thursday, 16 April 2009, 19:12 (IST)
There is a direct correlation between the results of this survey and what is being preached from the pulpit every Sunday in many of the evangelical churches in America. The baptists have never acknowledged the super natural works of the Holy Spirit and the daily infilling of this divine power to help us overcome the spiritual warfare everyday, and the pentecostals on the other hand went totally overboard with putting emphasis on speaking in tongues at any cost, even teaching how to speak in tongues through practice..and nothing else..go figure!! It is about time believers go back to the fundamentals of the new testament church and start gathering in homes rather than become a statistic in the mega churches. At this rate, true christianity will cease to exist in America with a remnant few seeking the Lord the way HE designed it to be and always being on guard for His coming or meeting Him in glory. Please do the same survey among beleivers in Asia, South America, Middle East and other third world countries and you will find that they have only once source to rely on - the HOLY SPIRIT for their day to day survival and you can see a marked difference in their faith and attitude towards others.
Sam, Tampa, Fl
Added: Thursday, 16 April 2009, 20:29 (IST)
This is the problem Christians face in todays world. I lay the problem at the feet of the Pastors of churches that do not feed their flock what the Bible says is necessary, (THE FULL GOSPEL, RIGHTLY DIVIDED). In other words it is a fully explained definition concerning these matters with good sound doctrine. It is there for the taking. All one needs is a Pastor willing to put the time into his prayer life to recieve from the Holy Spirit what is needed to show the answers to his flock. That is the long answer, but the short of it is that WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRITS TEACHINGS through prayer and quiet time with GOD , there can be no sound answers. It has to start with the BELIEF IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, (BEFORE) anyone can know the truth. Sad to say this is so wide spread throughout Christiandom.
Craig Edelmann, Vineland, NJ USA
Added: Thursday, 16 April 2009, 22:38 (IST)
Mr. Schaper is entirely correct. To include those who claim to be Christian but deny the deity of Christ is very misleading. To be a Christian one must believe that Jesus (God) came to Earth through the virgin birth, lived we mankind and died on a cross for our sins, was resurrected on the third day and ascended to heaven where he sits at the right hand of the Father (God). This is not just a mundane belief but one which changes you, draws you nearer to God and controls your everyday existence. Like Mr. Shaper said; this is not just my belief. All real Christians believe this at their core. Thank you.
Harold E. (Pappy) Harmon, Sr., Decatur, GA U.S.A.
Added: Thursday, 16 April 2009, 22:56 (IST)
Being born in a "Christian nation" or family, or even going to church, does not make one a Christian. The name came at Antioch, and the believers knew Jesus was the Savior or Messiah, and God in the flesh, and the only way to the Father. The Bible says to grieve not the Holy Spirit. He is a living spirit being that can feel pain over a situation. Jesus sits at the right hand of God. The Holy Spirit dwells in us. When we feel a situation is not right, we may be feeling the Holy Spirit grieving inside us. Jesus told the people of His day about demons and Satan. Those people had simple world views, compared to what we see today. But they were not stupid. They were as capable of learning as we are. Jesus could have said that something was a sickness of the thoughts or of the feelings. And sometimes He did. But other times, He cast out demons and people were transformed. The Bible is truthful and exciting and alive. God breathed the information into attentive men who wrote it down. God loves us so much, He came to earth as Jesus. He was a willing sacrifice who paid the price for our sins, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, just as the lambs and goats did for thousands of years before Him. He is the perfect sacrifice and nothing else appeases God. Our own efforts will not be enough. We are wonderfully and beautifully made, in the image of God. But compared to Him, our perfect Creator, "our righteousnesses are like filthy rags." We must turn from our own ways and turn to His, and agree that Jesus took the penalty for our disobediences. Anyone who does anything less is probably not a Christian. Just asking Jesus into your heart without being willing to change is not what makes a Christian. We must receive Jesus, yes, BUT we must turn from our disobediences. And He helps us. And the Holy Spirit will come to live in us and change our thoughts and actions and give us peace. "Receive" as in when we have company. We come out of the kitchen and "receive" and make welcome our company. So it is with the Holy Spirit. We make Him welcome, and we accept the gifts He brings, and we yield to His influence on us. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the Sar Shalom. There will be no world peace until He comes back. Read Ezekiel 37 and 38 and look at the political situation. It won't be long. Meanwhile, the enemy of our souls, Satan, would do everything to distract us from the truth. Entertainment today is one way. Themes of black magic, illicit activities.... You can think of many others, can't you. Turn away from them. Ask the Lord to forgive you and live in you and change you. The world tells you you don't need forgiveness. You know you do. Ask. Receive. See Him in this life--and live forever with Him in the next.
Mary Gordon, Dallas, TX
Added: Thursday, 16 April 2009, 23:41 (IST)
The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: Many denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer. That is a Christian, regarless of whether they believe in the (4th Century) Nicene Creed.
Bot, Littleton, Colorado
Added: Friday, 17 April 2009, 0:30 (IST)
One of the questions asked was whether the Holy Spirit is a living "force". I'm a standard devout catholic and I wouldv'e answered no to this question because the Holy Spirit is a person, not a force. Perhaps these surveyed christians had the same in mind when reading this question. If the survey was trying to get to different point (living vs symbol), then they worded the question badly.
Martin Atencio, Temple City, CA
Added: Friday, 17 April 2009, 2:16 (IST)
I must agree with Mr. Schaper. The Barna survey, and the CT report Riley wrote about it, should identify those who deny the Personhood of God the Holy Spirit as "self-professed Christians," "nominal Christians," or with a similar label. The Christian God is Trinitarian, and the Bible is specific about the personality of the Holy Spirit. Those who disagree with it cannot rightly consider themselves Christians--or be considered Christians by others. And to correct the article's writer, the Bible does not state "that the Holy Spirit is God's power or presence." What the Bible says is that the Holy Spirit is God. He has a mind, will, and emotions. He can be grieved, testify, and be blasphemed against, among other personal attributes. God the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, not "power or presence" or some divine force. If someone writes for Christianity Today, he or she should understand the fundamentals of the faith. Please correct the article, and pass along these comments to Barna.
Mike Bratton, Helena, Alabama
Added: Friday, 17 April 2009, 2:29 (IST)
I would like to see the questions. From the article, I get the impression that the questions were worded strangely. Maybe people were reacting to one part of the sentence and not the complete sentence. However, it syncs with my experience that most Christians don't understand what they profess to believe. I agree with the previous poster: this article mainly talks about those who call themselves Christians but are not. These may be the days of Elijah, but they are certainly the days of Laodicea.
Revelation320, Los Angleles
Added: Friday, 17 April 2009, 2:56 (IST)
Damning... far too many churches and teachers are either false, or failing miserably in teaching doctrine. The data does not surprise me though. I agree that the use of the term Christian is misused to confuse. "Heartlandia" spoke well, too many people "think" they are Christian, but are not.
Tom, Midland, USA
Added: Friday, 17 April 2009, 3:47 (IST)
This report reveals a very troubling picture of what is percieved as Christianity by Americans. Obviously these people who call themselves christian, are not following the tenets of Historical Orthodox Christianity. It would be interesting to have Barna do another poll to see howmany of the respondents could accurately recite the Apostle's Creed or the Lord's Prayer (the Our Father for our Catholic brothers and sisters). This should be taken as a clarion call for our churchs to give up the social surgar coated gospel and go back to the original call of the church and christians to spread the Gospel of the Kindom of God / Kingdom of Heaven.
Richard Paris, Altamonte Springs Florida, USA
Added: Friday, 17 April 2009, 4:13 (IST)
I may be wrong and am not a journalist, statistician, or theologian, but wouldn't the reader have been better served with more accurate theological results if Barna had interviewed 1,871 adults according to state population? The article provides no critical review of the Barna survey, but a visit to barna.org brings the reader directly to the analysis. At the end of the Barna summary, the research paragraph states, "a total of 1,871 adults were randomly selected from across the 48 continental states." This averages out to 37.42 people per state, but if 37 people were called in each state, that would seem unfair to me. Using an extreme example to illustrate a fair sampling, 37 people of, say, California (~37.7 million people) and 37 people from Vermont (~0.6 million) would provide unbalanced statistics, wouldn't it? In other words, why not divide those 1,871 people up by state population instead? I'm sure there are some fine Christians in Vermont, but sampling 37 Vermonteers along with 37 from a more populous state seems almost deceitful. Besides, whole regions now are a theologically much poorer source of Christian knowledge than they were 300 or even 100 years ago, generationally seduced by things that water down knowledge. Some would say it's a result of secular and theological liberalism, which is like herding cats. Barna also states, "Minimal statistical weighting was used to calibrate the aggregate sample to known population percentages in relation to several key demographic variables." This tells me that "minimal" adjustment was made for population. If not, Barna doesn't specify and our author doesn't question why. Perhaps the author can follow up with some better data? Say, more accurate sampling per state population, for example. Also, why not sample actual attending church members, informed people that attend at least once a week or several times a month, instead of bundling them with the uninformed who think themselves Christians because they attend church once or twice a year or simply baptised a baby? Why compare wheat with chaff? Barna says nothing of this. The provided data seems weak or at least incomplete, thus the author and the editors iare complicit in heralding fuzzy notions based on mushy information. I would think it would discourage pastors and high-five antichrists. On its merits, I give the article an "A" for effort and a "D" for, at least what appears to be, limited research. I challenge the author to dig deeper. Doesn't hurt to provide more that one survey either. Would a college paper with only just one bibliographic citation be graded well? Perhaps a responsible editor would have said "go back, get better data, and get more of it" raher than worrying about deadline. Publishing survey results may serve the surveyor, but the reader deserves more, don't you think? This calls for a measure of critical thinking, something akin to "trust and verify," a direct challenge to the editors. So, rather than publishing whatever misinformation seems like news, why not publish something that is newsworthy? Rhymes with trustworthy. It can only add to your media's credibility.
Christopher A. Weaver, Valencia, California
Added: Friday, 17 April 2009, 4:37 (IST)
I agree that a person is only a Christian if they believe the essentials of the Faith as stated in the Bible. Christians are called believers. You can't be a believer if you don't believe. You can call these people Churchians or pseudo-christians but not Christians. Not to mention the fact that if the Holy Spirit isn't real, then He does not indwell a person, which is a prerequisite for salvation (indwelling occurs simultaneously with conversion). Then you are no Temple, you have no Helper and you have no power. Jesus then lied about sending the Holy Spirit. If there is no devil then Jesus lied again, since He confronted him and spoke of him. If Jesus is a liar then He is no Savior and there is no salvation and we are all lost in our sin. Of course He is not a liar, but the way, the truth, and the life. These people are not saved according to the Scriptures.
michael, San Diego ca usa
Added: Friday, 17 April 2009, 7:47 (IST)
This is a very sad commentary on "Christians" in America. It also helps explain that while some surveys show 80% of Americans are "Christian", our country, much less our world, is not being impacted for Christ. It's because of those churches that teach "asking Jesus into your heart" and then don't explain repentance and walking with God; it's because of lack of teaching on the Holy Spirit and His role in the Christian's every day walk; and it's because of those churches who flat out don't believe the Bible in a literal sense and teach that heresy to their followers. Sad, sad, sad. I think the hard times to come may just be the Lord beginning the process of separating the wheat from the tares - after all, it all grows up together.
Angela Mason, Texas, USA
Added: Friday, 17 April 2009, 9:11 (IST)
If you remove ANY of the key elements which make up "salt", you do not have salt. You can call it salt all you want to, however; it is not. The same with Christianity. There are key fundamental doctrines of our faith that you have to accept in order to be a Christian. I did not say that you had to understand everything, but you do have to accept and believe ALL of the Word of God...or you have whatever you want to pick and chose as your own religion. It boils down to either you believe God or you don't.
S.W., Clermont, USA
Added: Friday, 17 April 2009, 10:03 (IST)
Steve, I agree that you have to believe in the Major tennants of christianity to be a cristian. But we Arian Christians were here before you Trinitarians killed us off and sold out to the politics of Rome.History is not most peoples strong suit, so I forgive your ignorance. That being said we still believe in Satan and the Holy Spirit we just don't believe God Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one in the same.
rick, Socialist States of AmeriKa
Added: Friday, 17 April 2009, 22:47 (IST)
I believe in One God (the Father) and in His only begotten Son, Jesus (who is a God to us and God because he was born of God - just as we humans produce humans). I also believe in the Spirit of God, which is how God the Father and His Son, Jesus, is everywhere present and dwells in our hearts. Believing in the Holy Spirit as a third person is believing in a person who doesn't exist. BUT, there definitely is a Holy Spirit - the Spirit of God. I also believe Satan is very real. He was the most beautiful and talented of all the angels (Lucifer) until his heart was lifted up by pride. He became jealous of Jesus and aspired to be like the Most High. He managed to get a third of the angles on his side. They were given every chance to repent but refused and had to be cast out of heaven. Satan and his angels are very real and doing their best to deceive the whole world. He has replaced every sound Bible doctrine with his false theories, one of the most glaring being keeping Sunday the first day of the week as Sabbath instead of keeping the 4th commandment (Exodus 20:8) Sabbath - the seventh day of the week - first blessed and made holy at the end of creation (Genesis 2:1-3). This will soon become the test that will determine whether or not you are obeying God or man. Read your Bible to see whether these things are so. Our lives depend on it. We must accept Jesus as our Savior. He said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15) Another of Satan's biggest lies is that the dead are not really dead but go on living in heaven or hell. Ecclesiastes 9:5 says "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything. . . " This is just one of many verses. How can anyone be assigned to heaven or hell before the judgment takes place at the end of the world? Jesus brings His reward with Him when He comes (Matthew 17:27). This lie of the devil leads to being deceived by the dead supposedly appearing to loved ones. This would only be the devil himself impersonating. Get out of your denominational ruts and read the Bible for yourselves! This is important now as never before! There is only 7,000 years portrayed in the Bible of which we are at the end of 6,000. The 7th thousand will be in Heaven. Get ready! There will be no second chance (another lie of the devil). Ask for free book, WARNING! Revelation is About to be Fulfilled, on www.wake-up.org.
Alice Marsh, Dove Creek, CO
Added: Sunday, 19 April 2009, 4:10 (IST)
Wow, Rick. We would very much like to be able to dialogue with you. We also are not trinitarians and have studied history and believe that Arians have been mischarged in their belief about the Son of God. We are familiar with the Council of Nicea in 325 and the discussion that the Son of God was of like substance or of the same substance as the Father. We believe this is where the church went wrong and started into the trinitarian view that was more completed in the Council of Constantinople. We are also aware that the three tribes plucked up by the little horn of Revelation were the Arian nations and were probably destroyed because they would not accept the doctrine of the trinity. Would love to communicate with you on this subject. Our E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Al Marsh, Dove Creek, CO
Added: Thursday, 23 April 2009, 4:17 (IST)
Rick - please come back or contact us at e-mail address email@example.com. We want to know exactly what Arians believe. We've heard they believe Jesus was a created being rather than the Son of God. We doubt they believe that and would like to know for sure. Maybe somebody else out there knows.
Alice and Al, Dove Creek, CO
Added: Sunday, 24 May 2009, 21:29 (IST)
Barna produces some very interesting statistics in his surveys and this is yet again another statistical analysis that falls short in some ways of accurately depicting the culture. In a way these questions could be about the Large Hadron Collider and how it works, what it is, and what it does. Many wold get their answers from popular media such as the Angels and demons literature by Dan Brown or the accompanying movie. The point is, that North American beliefs on Satan and evil, including demonic spirits, is fed by media and hearsay. Few people have explored the origins of their beliefs and therefore they have simply adopted a second-hand belief. Is it possible that those who don't believe in a literal Satan are right? Is it possible Christianity has adopted an ancient Persian belief in two supernatural powers, one Good and the other Evil, from ancient Persia? Is it possible that the Greek influence on the thinking about a mythical being who tries to thwart the Good God is so entrenched in the religious mind that many will never work to understand why they believe in Satan? Is it possible that there is only One God and if Satan can do the things God does on some level, that he then is another God? There are many excellent resources that don't deal with what people believe as much as they deal with the origins of those beliefs. In the Book Satan Christianity's Other God - Volume 1 the reader is shown the origins of the Satan idea. In that work large quantities of historical and Biblical evidence is given to assist the reader in discovering who and what Satan is. And why much of Christianity and culture believes in a literal Satan. The scog(dot)ca web site provides segments of this work. I Think Barna might be at odds with this work because it seems he has concluded the bible teaches satan is real. Yet by looking at the individual references in the bible without ignoring the context and the linguistics, one can quite easily come to conclude Satan is not real.Starting with the Old Testament, we learn there was no literal satan for the Hebrews until they left Persian.That is when the Hebrew noun sawtawn started to become a proper noun Satan. It would be helpful after all, to begin to explore the origins of ideas such as satan and hell before one concludes the ideas are taught in the Bible and therefore doctrine. I once was very quick to ascribe to Satan many of the things either God or man had done...but then I learned who and what the sawtan was.
James R. Brayshaw, Canada
Added: Thursday, 9 July 2009, 12:23 (IST)
yes the holy spirit is true i trust him
john mark, india
Added: Saturday, 24 October 2009, 19:44 (IST)
Steve, I disagree with you completely.. It's not that Barna doesn't understand what the word 'Christian' means, it's that you have defined what Christian means. If you follow certain philosophers teachings, you could be considered a disciple of that philosopher.. the same goes for Jesus, which would cause you to consider yourself a Christian because you associate yourself with Jesus Christ... The Bible was written by Man, period. The life of Jesus or what Jesus represents to people is an entirely different thing. Unmitigated control of religious groups which have used their rules/doctrines to influence the will of societies is completely a man made influence, it is not the influence of God. Interpretations are not cast in stone representations of the truth.
Added: Monday, 29 November 2010, 22:58 (IST)
I entirely agree that To be a Christian you must, with all your heart, believe literally every word in the God's written Word - the Bible (if you don't, you are calling God a liar), confess all your sins to Him, accept His forgiveness, and completely put your life in His hands. But I think that Barna studied all those that just decided to call themselves christians, whether they really were or not. It is so sad that people are making their own religion and just putting the tag "christian" on themselves.
H.M., New York State, U.S.A
Added: Monday, 29 November 2010, 23:20 (IST)
One more thing, the Bible was not JUST written by man. Sure people such as Moses, Matthew and man others wrote it down and recorded it, but the Bible is literally "God-Breathed" We have not made a new definition of what "christian" means. We are stating what it is and always has been. We are followers of Christ (thus the word "CHRISTians") Jesus was not just another philosopher. He IS the Son of God, the savior of mankind, the ONE AND ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN, and my very best friend. Our goal in life is to grow closer to him, become more like him, and ultimately live forever with him. Not through works, but through faith, and a great relationship w/ Him. It just so happens that good works are a result of our faith in Christ.
H.M., New York State, U.S.A