Pollster George Barna reported that "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism," or "watered-down, feel-good, fake Christianity" was widely prevalent in the United States.
Barna's research, titled the "American Worldview Inventory 2021," states that these beliefs were commonly found among teenagers in the early 2000s, and that they remain pervasive in their adulthood. This makes MTD "the most popular worldview in the United States today."
Based on the responses people gave during half-hour individual interviews, WND previously estimated that 94 percent of Americans do not hold a biblical worldview.
According to the study, close to four out of ten adults (38%) was quoted as saying that they "are more likely to embrace elements of MTD" than other mainstream worldviews like biblical theism, secular humanism, postmodernism, nihilism, Marxism and its offshoot Critical Theory, and Eastern Mysticism.
However, three out of four people who accept MTD continue to identify as Christians.
Even so, 95 percent do not believe that obedience to God produces success, 91 percent do not believe that people are born into sin and need Jesus' redemption, 88 percent claim they get much of their moral guidance from sources other than the Bible, and 76 percent believe that "good people" go to Heaven because they are, well, "good."
Barna explained that this "distorted version of Christianity" regards God as a powerful but detached observer who remains uninvolved in human experience unless circumstances require Him to be the last resort.
The report also states that 75% of those who express MTD beliefs do not believe God is the source of all truth, 74% believe in karma, 73% believe that having some religious faith is more important than just what faith is, and 71% believe the Bible isn't really an accurate communication from God.
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, according to the Arizona Christian University's Cultural Research Center's (CRC) "American Worldview Inventory 2021" was first defined by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton in their 2005 book, "Soul Searching: The Religions and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers," and requires few commitments from adherents, including:
- "Belief in a God who remains distant from people's lives"
- "People are supposed to be good to each other (i.e., moral)"
- "The universal purpose of life of being happy and feeling good about oneself"
- "There are no absolute moral truths"
- "God allows "good people" into Heaven"
- "God places very limited demands on people"
"Other errant beliefs possessed by a majority of adults who are substantially influenced by MTD include that they do not believe in the creation story, reject the existence of absolute moral truth, deny the existence of the Holy Spirit and believe it is possible to reach complete spiritual maturity in their lifetime," noted the CRC.
Hispanics (more than 40% of whom are Catholic) were the racial and ethnic group most aligned with MTD, with the majority of them (52%) drawing strongly or moderately from MTD perspectives.
The research also revealed a large age difference, with those under the age of 50 being more than twice as likely as those over 50 to find MTD appealing, according to the survey.
Barna argues that MTD is a worldview defined and shaped more by contemporary culture than by "historical religious truths or a comprehensive and coherent doctrine."
As a result, this "approach to spirituality" requires little of its adherents while providing them with the "comfort, convenience, and community" they crave, states the CRC.
"The fact that a greater percentage of people who call themselves Christian draw from Moralistic Therapeutic Deism than from the Bible says a lot about the state of the Christian church in America, in all of its manifestations," Barna cautioned.
"Simply and objectively stated, Christianity in this nation is rotting from the inside out, " he added.
The study examines the people's beliefs in the United States on an annual basis. It uses several hundred worldview-related questions taken from eight categories of worldview application to assess both beliefs and behavior.
The survey began in February and included 2,000 adults from a "nationally representative sample," with a 95 percent confidence interval estimating a maximum sampling error of approximately plus or minus 2 percentage points.