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Postmodernism, secularism have increasing influence over Americans' decision-making: report

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A newly released survey reveals that the ideologies of postmodernism and secular humanism have a noticeable influence on how Americans make decisions. 

The Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University released the eighth report of its 2021 American Worldview Inventory Tuesday. The report was based on responses collected from 2,000 American adults in February as part of a more extensive survey with a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points. 

The survey found that although 2% of Americans have adopted secular humanism as their dominant worldview, a significantly higher share of the population (16%) actively embrace principles associated with the worldview. Similarly, while just 1% of Americans have adopted postmodernism as their dominant worldview, 16% frequently make decisions indicating that the philosophy plays an important role in shaping their day-to-day actions.

The Cultural Research Center defines postmodernism as a worldview “based on ideas such as the belief that all knowledge, values and morals are dependent upon and thereby determined by social conditions; there is no absolute moral truth or universal moral boundaries; science and reason are of limited value to progress; and that everything, including personal identity and social roles, are constantly changing.”

The belief that all truth is subjective and that there are no moral absolutes is the most commonly embraced postmodern idea in American life, with 54% of respondents subscribing to it. Additionally, 41% do not believe that every decision they make in their lives either honors or dishonors God. 

Other postmodern ideas also register significant support among the American people. Thirty-nine percent believe that human life has no intrinsic value, 29% express a desire to get even with those who wronged them, 29% contend that there is no way to determine if God or a supernatural being exists, 28% cite their feelings and circumstances as the primary motivating factors for how they treat people, and 24% see historical narratives as unreliable since they are based on subjective human accounts.

Secular humanism, as characterized by the Cultural Research Center, “includes elements such as the centrality of human reason and scientific inquiry to point the way forward; a desire to develop a more humane and moral society through human effort and capabilities; disbelief in a supernatural deity, an afterlife, absolute moral truth, and religious belief; and a pursuit of fairness, justice and tolerance.” 

A majority of Americans (54%) subscribe to the secular humanist belief that a scientific explanation exists for the creation of the universe and that no higher being played a role in its design. Sizable portions of respondents reject the idea that human beings were created in the image and likeness of God (48%), point to “success” in worldly pursuits as the source of fulfillment in life (36%), cite human reason as their primary guide for morality (33%) and believe that scientific inquiry and proof alone determine truth (24%). 

At the same time, only 6% of Americans completely reject the idea that God or a supernatural being exists, 21% define success as consistent obedience to God and 41% of Americans cite God, as revealed in the Bible, as the basis of truth. However, 34% say that they do not know, believe or care if God exists, 23% view human beings as merely biological machines corrupted by society and 16% contend that Heaven and Hell do not exist because there is no life after death. 

The research from Arizona Christian University identified syncretism, a hybrid of beliefs adopted from different worldviews, as the dominant worldview among Americans. Eighty-eight percent of Americans have a syncretic worldview while just 6% possess a biblical worldview.

“A major reason for the extensive acceptance of alternatives to the biblical worldview is that Christians are not devoted to understanding, discussing, and — most importantly — living out the biblical worldview,” said George Barna, the director of the Cultural Research Center, in a statement. “Our research reveals that our worldview is influenced by many factors, but one of the most significant is observing what a worldview looks like in action.”

According to Barna, “With only six percent of adults embracing the biblical worldview, the importance of the other six out of 10 adults who call themselves Christians but who do not reflect biblical thinking and living cannot be overestimated.” He warned that the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans do not subscribe to a biblical worldview has a significant impact on society.

Noting that an individual’s worldview informs their beliefs about the “origins of the universe, evolution, truth, moral behavior, life after death, the existence of God, role of history, definition of success, and more,” Barna stressed that “Followers of Christ who believe that the Bible contains truth and practical guidance for living have a different way of understanding these matters than do, literally, 88 percent of the population.” 

“That divergence places the burden on our shoulders to explain why we believe the Bible is true and to be able to describe in the simplest of terms what it teaches about all of these matters,” he added. “If we cannot articulate a persuasive perspective on these matters, great numbers of people will suffer the consequences of their biblical illiteracy and our inability to serve them well by overcoming that deficiency. It [is] truly a matter of life and death, with global implications.” 

Founded in 2020, the Cultural Research Center conducts “cultural and biblical worldview studies that will provide research and resources to inform and mobilize strategic engagement in cultural transformation.” 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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