Nearly seven in 10 Americans, including a majority of those who attend evangelical churches, believe “people are basically good,” according to a new survey by Arizona Christian University’s Cultural Research Center.
A total of 69 percent of U.S. adults agree with the statement “people are basically good,” the survey says. This view is so popular that a majority of every population subgroup – including churchgoers – say they affirm it.
The poll of 2,000 adults, released in June, is part of the center’s American Worldview Inventory, a larger report examining the views of Americans on a wide range of issues. The university is releasing the report in 10 parts.
“Seeing human beings as ‘basically good’ runs counter to the foundational biblical teaching that human beings are created by God and made in His image but are fallen and in need of redemption,” an analysis by the university’s Cultural Research Center says.
The belief that “people are basically good” is held by a majority of Americans affiliated with evangelical churches (70 percent), mainline Protestant churches (75 percent) and Catholic churches (77 percent).
Even a slight majority of Americans who hold a biblical worldview – 52 percent – affirm the statement, according to the survey. The “biblical worldview” assessment is based on questions about a person’s beliefs and behavior.
The 69 percent of Americans who say humanity is good is a decrease from 30 years ago, when it was 83 percent, Barna noted.
“From a biblical perspective, the problem is that we have a sin nature, pure and simple. We can deny it, but it still exists,” said George Barna, director of research for the Cultural Research Center. “Every society can benefit from specific systemic changes, present-day America included. But any systemic changes designed to transform the culture will be short-lived and of limited impact unless the hearts and minds of the people who populate that system are transformed first.
“... It’s not popular to admit, but our baseline problem is rebellion against goodness and holiness, driven by our arrogance and selfishness,” Barna added. “Our problem is spiritual rather than political or economic. Given the cultural challenges we are facing today, our best strategy is to collectively turn to God, humble ourselves before Him, earnestly seek His love and forgiveness, and follow His wisdom and guidance.”
The poll was conducted in January.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.