Barna Research Group in Ventura, CA, has just published the results of a poll that showed several differences between atheists and agnostics, on the one hand, and Christians, on the other. A report on the poll can be found in an article published in Church Executive entitled Study sizes up gaps between Christians, atheists and agnostics. Here are some of the more interesting results.
Most atheists and agnostics (56 percent) agree with the idea that radical Christianity is just as threatening in America as is radical Islam. Two-thirds of active-faith Americans (63 percent) perceive that the nation is becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity.
Atheists and agnostics were found to be largely more disengaged in many areas of life than believers. They are less likely to be registered to vote (78 percent) than active-faith Americans (89 percent); to volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit (20 percent vs. 30 percent); to describe themselves as "active in the community" (41 percent vs. 68 percent); and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person (41 percent vs. 61 percent).
Additionally, when the no-faith group does donate to charitable causes, their donation amount pales in comparison to those active in faith. In 2006, atheists and agnostics donated just $200 while believers contributed $1,500. The amount is still two times higher among believers when subtracting church-based giving.
The no-faith group is also more likely to be focused on living a comfortable, balanced lifestyle (12 percent) while only 4 percent of Christians say the same. And no-faith adults are also more focused on acquiring wealth (10 percent) than believers (2 percent). One-quarter of Christians identified their faith as the primary focus of their life.
Still, one-quarter of atheists and agnostics said "deeply spiritual" accurately describes them and three-quarters of them said they are clear about the meaning and purpose of their life.
When it came to being "at peace," however, researchers saw a significant gap with 67 percent of no-faith adults saying they felt "at peace" compared to 90 percent of believers. Atheists and agnostics are also less likely to say they are convinced they are right about things in life (38 percent vs. 55 percent) and more likely to feel stressed out (37 percent vs. 26 percent).
I largely leave it to the reader to decide the significance of these numbers. However, given the on-going debate that have been taking place on these pages regarding the relationship between morality and God's existence, I do find it telling that atheists and agnostics are significantly less likely to donate time or talents to charitable work. Caring for the poor, sick and unwanted is part of the Christian ethic to "love your neighbor as yourself", and doing this especially for the poor is consistent with Jesus' that that what we do for the least of our neighbors we do for God. Atheists and agnostics, having no such motivation or direction, appear to be falling away from this important work. Coincidence? I think not.