Northeast dominates list of America’s most ‘post-Christian’ cities: Barna Report

St. John's Episcopal Church
St. John's Episcopal Church of Charlestown, Massachusetts. |

The Northeastern part of the United States, once known as a bulwark of Puritans and other strict Christian sects, now dominates the top 10 list of the most “post-Christian” cities, according to a report by the Barna Group.   

For the report, released Wednesday, Barna drew from data based on interviews with 21,378 adults conducted over a 10-year period that concluded in April 2018, with a sampling error of plus or minus 0.7 percentage points.

The cities were listed in geographic area classifications known as Designated Market Areas, a term developed by The Nielsen Company to define a local media market.

Springfield-Holyoke, Massachusetts, was ranked as the most post-Christian city in America, with 66 percent of their surveyed population fitting Barna’s definition for the term.

Springfield-Holyoke was the first of eight Northeastern cities, occupying the top eight slots on the list. Second place went to Portland-Auburn, Maine, at 60 percent post-Christian.

Places three through eight were, in descending order, Providence, Rhode Island-New Bedford, Massachusetts (59 percent), Burlington, Vermont (59 percent), Boston, Massachusetts-Manchester, New Hampshire (58 percent), Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York (56 percent), Hartford-New Haven, Connecticut (56 percent) and Rochester, New York (55 percent).

Rounding out the top 10 most post-Christian cities were two outside of the Northeast: Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis Obispo, California, and Seattle-Tacoma, Washington, both at 54 percent.

To fit Barna’s label of “post-Christian,” a respondent had to meet at least 13 of 16 listed criteria, which included not believing in God, not attended church in the past six months, never made a commitment to Jesus, not prayed to God in the past week, having not read the Bible at all in the last week, believe that Jesus was not sinless, and not consider faith important in their lives.

In the case of Springfield-Holyoke, 87 percent of respondents reported not reading the Bible in the past week, 65 percent reported not attending church in the past six months, and 60 percent reported having never made a commitment to Jesus.

The 2019 Barna report on most post-Christian cities resembles the list released in summer 2017 with respect to the Northeast holding eight spots on the top 10.

In 2017, Portland-Auburn topped the list at 57 percent, followed by Boston-Manchester at 56 percent, Albany-Schenectady-Troy at 54 percent, and Providence-New Bedford at 53 percent.

Barna noted in their 2017 report that “church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have all been dropping for decades” in the United States.

“By consequence, the role of religion in public life has been slowly diminishing, and the church no longer functions with the cultural authority it held in times past,” they added.

“These are unique days for the church in America as it learns what it means to flourish in a new 'Post-Christian' era.”

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