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Making incense of religion

A new poll by George Barna finds the young and middle-aged are more like each other in their religious beliefs -- and less religious than the oldest Americans.

Americans 28 to 46 years old read the Bible more, volunteer at church more, and say they’ve been "born again" more than their elders did 20 years ago, according to the second analysis of Barna's January survey of American religion.

What’s more, 60 percent say they’ve made a "personal commitment" to Jesus -- 12 percent higher than 20 years ago -- and 80 percent accept the label of Christian.

Compare that with Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. Volunteering at churches has fallen among them by 10 points over 20 years, to 18 percent today. They are also the most unchurched of any generation, at 41 percent, and only 38 percent trust the Bible in everything it teaches.

But if younger Americans are so devout, why aren't they in church? Well, that’s one for the debit side of the sheet. Among "Baby Busters," as Barna calls them, only 39 attended within the past six months. They also outpaced Boomer skepticism about the Bible: Only 35 percent trust the book, down 11 points from 1991.

Another surprise: older Americans, those born in 1945 or earlier. Common wisdom says they are the church stalwarts. Not so, according to Barna. He finds that the elderly actually read the Bible and attend Sunday school less, and 29 percent don’t attend church -- eight points higher than in 1991. They also have less confidence that God is an all-knowing, all-powerful ruler -- 71 percent, versus 80 percent two decades ago.


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