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American Christians Unclear on Meaning, Purpose of Life

Americans overwhelmingly believe that life has a specific purpose. They just aren’t sure what it is.

Renowned worldview researcher Dr. George Barna of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University released the fourth of twelve groundbreaking, bi-weekly reports regarding the worldview of Americans this morning and the latest findings reveal that while 86% of Americans believe there is a universal, shared purpose for life that every human being possesses, only 18% believe it to be knowing, loving and serving God. Indeed, a majority of Americans—including Christians—it seems are seeking meaning without Him.

Additional findings from the latest research:

  • There is little consensus in how Americans define the purpose of life. The most widespread view, held by nearly one-quarter of adults (23%), identified “experiencing happiness and fulfillment” as the ultimate reason for living, followed by: “evolving to our full potential physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually” (18%); “knowing, loving, and serving God” (18%); “furthering the development of humanity” (10%) or “living a long, healthy life” (10%).
  • The leading definition of success was “living a healthy, productive, and safe life” (25%). One of five adults defined it as either “being a good person” (22%) or maintaining “consistent obedience to God” (21%); 18% said “experiencing personal happiness or freedom” was the definition of success.
  • Whether God is included as part of one’s life purpose differs sharply by age and political views. The older a person, the more likely they are to adopt a biblical view of life’s purpose. Conversely, the youngest (18 to 29) Americans are least likely to include God. Political conservatives are three times as likely as political liberals to identify God as giving purpose to life.

“The disconnect is staggering,” says Barna, CRC Director of Research.


“As a nation, we yearn for purpose and calling, ideas deeply rooted within our nation’s historical Christian faith and biblical understanding of God. Americans hold on to these basic biblical ideas of what makes human existence meaningful, yet, at the same time, refuse to recognize reliance on God or even His existence when talking about their happiness or purpose.” 
Additional AWVI findings will be released bi-weekly. This release was the third of twelve total reports.

George Barna is a professor at Arizona Christian University and the Director of Research at the Cultural Research Center at ACU. He also founded the Barna Group, a research company that for years set the standard for understanding trends in American culture. Dr. Barna has written more than 50 books, including numerous award-winners and New York Times bestsellers. He is also a Fellow at the Townsend Institute, has taught at the undergraduate and graduate level, and has pastored two churches. 

The Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University is located on the school’s campus in Glendale, Arizona. CRC conducts nationwide research studies to understand the intersection of faith and culture. The CRC is non-partisan and inter-denominational. More information about the Cultural Research Center is available at the Center’s website, located at www.culturalresearchcenter.com.

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