First Post-Pandemic Study Finds Significant Changes in the Religious Beliefs & Behaviors of U.S. Adults

Barna, CRC's American Worldview Inventory 2023: Seismic changes include a 42% decline in born-again Christian adults who believe they have a God-given purpose; 15 million fewer Americans attending church weekly than in 2020

Glendale, AZ  — New findings from the American Worldview Inventory 2023 (AWVI 2023), the first national post-pandemic study of Americans' worldview, have confirmed and now quantified what many have long suspected— that the COVID pandemic has shaken the very foundations of faith in the United States.

Conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University under the direction of Dr. George Barna, the study has revealed that not only has the incidence of biblical worldview decreased from 6% to 4%, but that 14 different measures showed unusually substantial change—presenting both opportunities and challenges to the church.

The biggest statistical change noted between 2020 and 2023 among U.S. adults overall was a staggering 20-percentage point decline in those who believe they have a unique, God-given calling or purpose for their life. Before the pandemic, two-thirds of adults (66%) embraced that point of view, compared to slightly less than half of adults (46%) today who do.

Another double-digit decline was in the number of adults who believe human life is sacred. A minority of Americans (39%) held that view in 2020, but that number has plummeted to just 29% in 2023.


Ironically, while there was a large jump in the number of people accepting the idea of absolute moral truth, there was a drop of six-percentage points in the number of adults who believe that God is the basis of all truth.


Another noteworthy decline was a four-point drop in the number of adults overall who identify as Christian. That number slipped from 72% in 2020 to 68% in 2023—a continuation of a decades long pattern.


One of four unfortunate behavioral transitions concerned whether people describe themselves as “deeply committed to practicing” their religious faith. Prior to the start of the pandemic, six out of 10 adults (60%) made that claim. Today, that number is less than half (48%).


Lastly, one of the most frequently measured religious behaviors is that of church attendance, which the AWVI 2023 found has declined since the start of the pandemic by nearly six percentage points. Just one out of three adults (33%) now attends a church service during a typical week—a decline representing the loss of about 15 million churchgoing adults each week.

To access the full report and

detailed statistical analysis, click here

The study's findings were not, however, limited to the adult population in the U.S. as a whole.

Interestingly, the research revealed that born-again Christians, specifically, experienced an unusually high number of changes in their worldview beliefs and behaviors. All told, there were 13 statistically significant changes identified among the born-again population—and the magnitude of the shift for two of them, Barna says, is quite astonishing.

First, the percentage of born-again adults who believe that they have a unique, God-given calling or purpose for their life has been cut nearly in half, from 88% to 46%. The second major reorientation was a 35-point swing regarding born-again individuals claiming that they are deeply committed to practicing their faith. The proportion dropped from a very robust 85% in 2020 to merely half of the group (50%) in 2023.

In addition to the massive reduction in their acknowledging a unique God-given purpose, born-again believers posted three other double-digit declines.

Decreases in biblical beliefs included a 14-point drop in the number contending the Bible is unambiguous in its teaching about abortion, a 14-point decline in those who believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life during His time on Earth and a 12-point downturn in those who claim that human life is sacred.


“Most religious beliefs change over the course of generations, not a few years. However, we know that major life crises have the capacity to introduce substantial change quickly in the foundations of people’s faith ... the pandemic was certainly a life crisis for our nation."


However, among the more than four dozen beliefs and behaviors evaluated, four particular beliefs showed significant movement toward biblical thinking.

In 2020, only one-third of the adult U.S. population dismissed the idea that there are no moral truths that are the same for everyone. In 2023, the proportion of those who rejected that notion rose to almost half (46%).

Another similar and sizable shift towards biblical thinking occurred in how many adults now reject the belief that eternal salvation can be earned through good works. That number jumped to just under half of adults (45%) from the one-third (35%) who denied that possibility just three years ago. The research also showed a seven-percentage point increase in the number of adults who accept the idea that the purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength—one of the Seven Biblical Worldview Cornerstones


The final significant positive change was a five-point increase in the number of adults who contend that the Bible is the true and completely accurate word of God. Since the start of the pandemic, that proportion has climbed closer to the halfway mark, with 46% now holding that belief. 

While it is not unusual to find significant changes in beliefs or behavior related to politics, entertainment or lifestyle preferences, religious beliefs and behaviors have typically been a hallmark of consistency, according to Barna. The significant changes found in the study, he says, are highly unusual.


“Most religious beliefs change over the course of generations, not a few years. However, we know that major life crises have the capacity to introduce substantial change quickly in the foundations of people’s faith.”


Barna continued, “The pandemic was certainly a life crisis for our nation, so even though this magnitude of spiritual shift was not expected, it is feasible given the physical and psychological effects of COVID along with the economic, relational, and lifestyle effects of the government’s drastic policies.”  


Explaining the implications of the most prolific changes identified in the survey—the 42-point decrease in born-again adults claiming to have a unique, God-given calling or purpose for their life, and the 35-point drop within that segment saying they are deeply committed to practicing their religious faith—is not difficult, Barna said.


“The impact of the pandemic and the strong-arm tactics of government during the lockdown years may have shaken the faith of many Christians. The huge drop in foundational perspectives among born-again adults may foretell local churches being less able to rely on the active and reliable support of that critical niche of the church body.”


How should church leaders respond?


“This is a time when pastors would be wise to return to many basic Christian principles to rebuild the spiritual foundation of their congregants,” Barna said. 


“And to celebrate the blessings of God, reminding people how great their God really is."

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About the Cultural Research Center

The Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Arizona, conducts the annual American Worldview Inventory as well as other nationwide surveys regarding cultural transformation. Recent national studies completed by the Cultural Research Center (CRC) have investigated topics related to family, values, lifestyle, spiritual practices, and politics.

One of the groundbreaking efforts by CRC has been the worldview-related surveys conducted among the ACU student population. The first-of-its-kind ACU Student Worldview Inventory is administered to every ACU student at the start of each academic year, and a final administration is undertaken among students just prior to their graduation. The results of that student census enable the University to track and address the worldview development of its students.

CRC is guided by George Barna, Director of Research, and Tracy Munsil, Executive Director. Like ACU, CRC embraces biblical Christianity. The Center works in cooperation with a variety of Bible-centric, theologically conservative Christian ministries and remains politically non-partisan. Access to the results from past surveys conducted by CRC and information about the Cultural Research Center is available at Further information about Arizona Christian University is available at

What is a 'biblical worldview' and how does CRC measure worldview?

For more information ...

For additional information on Dr. Barna, Dr. Adam Rasmussen, Dr. Len Munsil and the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, click here on on the image to the right.

To connect with an ACU/CRC expert, contact:

Jason Jones

Jones Literary

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