Survey Shows Most Americans Believe ‘Humans Are Basically Good’ But Don’t Think Life Is ‘Sacred’

Photo Credit: Pixabay

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The seventh installation of the nationwide “American Worldview” survey conducted by Dr. George Barna and the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University found that most Americans feel that mankind is “basically good,” but when asked about the value of human life, only 39% agreed that life is sacred.

“As we reject the biblical worldview for what we might think are more enlightened human values, ironically we are rejecting the source of the very things that make us human,” Arizona Christian University President Len Munsil said in a statement. “When we no longer value life, when we no longer acknowledge our sin nature, when we no longer see our need for a Savior, things become incredibly dire for our nation.”

The Center surveyed 2,000 adults at random in January for its American Worldview Inventory study, interviewing those of all ages, ethnicities, beliefs and political persuasions on the telephone or online.

Participants were asked whether they agree or disagree with the statement “people are basically good.” While the percentage of those who agree is lower than when the survey was conducted 30 years ago (83%), seven out of ten — or 69% — still responded that they believe man is basically good.

For respondents who are churchgoers, most still agreed — Evangelical and Pentecostals were 70% each, although the percentage was slightly higher for those who attend Mainline Protestant and Catholic houses of worship — 75% and 77%.

The Cultural Research Center noted that responses were likely based on personal feelings rather than facts, outlining that those who have a biblical worldview were more likely to disagree with the statement.

“Their comparative resistance to the notion of the goodness of humanity is based on the Bible teaching that all people are sinners who need to be saved from their sins and sinful nature, and are innately selfish,” the report outlines. “Numerous Bible passages are cited by adherents of this view as theological proof that God declares people to be consistently and entirely evil.”

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“That view can be summarized as characterizing people as tainted by original sin and because God is the standard of goodness — a standard that people cannot live up to — the only path to goodness is through salvation in Jesus Christ.”

Ecclesiastes 7:20 reads, “For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.”

Romans 3:9-12 and 19 state, “[F]or we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin, as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth; there is none that seeketh after God.'”

“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God.”

Romans 3:23-24 teaches, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Participants were also asked their views on the value of human life, which included the statement “human beings are God’s creation, made in His image, fallen, needs redemption.” 56% agreed.

“One-third of Americans possess alternative views about humanity,” the report outlines. “For instance, one out of every eight (12%) claims that people are simply ‘material substance – biological machines.’ Another one-eighth (12%) argues that people are ‘part of the mind of the universe.'”

“Smaller numbers of people describe humans as ‘an illusion,’ claiming we do not exist; or as ‘sleeping gods, part of the soul of the universe.'”

When presented with the statement “human life is sacred,” only 39% agreed.

“[A] substantially larger share of the population combined to offer views such as ‘life is what you make it, but it has no absolute value’ (37%); ‘life does not attain its full value until we reach our highest point of evolution and expression’ (11%); or other, less popular points of view that concurred that life has no infinite, unconditional value,” the survey found.

One of ten said that they did not know if life is sacred or not.

The issue of abortion was also broached, with 37% agreeing that the Bible is ambiguous on abortion, while 41% disagreed. 22% said they did not know.

“Combining the 37% who say the Bible is ambiguous regarding abortion with the nearly one-quarter of adults who admit they do not know (22%) results in six out of ten adults for whom the Bible is not the arbiter of appropriate action on that hotly-contested issue,” the report explains. “In raw numbers, that amounts to roughly 150 million adults who would not seek guidance from the Bible regarding abortion.”

Photo Credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

The Cultural Research Center analyzed the statistics in light of current unrest in the nation, opining that America’s issues with crime, political tensions, anger, hatred and moral decline show that men in and of themselves are not innately good. It disagreed that bad things primarily happen because of poverty, a lack of education, poor social standing or other outward circumstances but because of the darkness of human nature.

“The underlying issues are ill-formed character and a broken moral compass. Economic, social and cultural depravity are outgrowths of our moral and character deficiencies, not causes,” Barna said. “Poor people with godly character and biblical morals make good choices. Rich people with bad character and inappropriate morals make bad choices, despite their education, fame, wealth, and social class.”

He explained that it is fruitless to try to change culture without getting to the root of the problem: the sin nature that can only be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

“From a biblical perspective, the problem is that we have a sin nature, pure and simple. We can deny it, but it still exists,” Barna outlined. “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. Our problem is spiritual rather than political or economic,” he continued. “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.”

Read the Cultural Research Center’s report in full here. 


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