Survey: Albany the most "post-Christian" city in a national ranking

barna post-christian cities map

The top 15, according to Barna. Here's the full Barna infographic.

We don't necessarily put a lot of faith in these sorts of city rankings, but for what it's worth: Albany tops the chart as the most "post-Christian" city in a national ranking, according to survey analysis by the Barna Group. The research company bills itself as "a leading research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture."

According to the survey, the Albany area headed the national chart with 63 percent of people tagged as "post-Christian." It appears the rankings were released this past April.

So what do they mean by "post-Christian." From a Barna explainer about its use of the term:

To shed light on this, the Barna team created an aggregate metric of post-Christian culture based upon 15 different measures of identity, belief and behavior. To qualify as post-Christian, individuals met 60% or more of the factors (nine or more out of 15 criteria). Highly post-Christian individuals met 80% or more of the factors (12 or more of these 15 criteria).

The 15 different measures range from "do not believe in God" to "have not donated money to a church (in the last year)" to "do not participate in a house church (in the last year)." You can see the full list at the first and third links above.

We can't figure out if these questions were asked of people of all religions or just people who somehow identified as having some sort of Christian background. You know, if you're Jewish, it's very highly likely that you "have never made a commitment to Jesus." Having the label "post-Christian" applied to you in that case seems, at best, wrongheaded. And it doesn't make you "irreligious." The same goes for many other beliefs.

Anyway, Albany was joined in the top 10 of the rankings by (in descending order): Burlington, Portland (Maine), Providence, Hartford, San Francisco, Boston, Buffalo, New York, and San Diego. The least "post-Christian" among the 96 cities surveyed: Knoxville and Shreveport, tied at 12 percent. Barna figures that 37 percent of the nation as a whole is "post-Christian."

Other perspective
For a different perspective on this general topic, here's the Pew Center's Religion and Public Life Project. A few possibly-relevant bits that we plucked from its stacks of info:
+ This area has a strong history of Catholicism -- there are current or former Catholic churches all over the place -- but Pew reported earlier this year that the percentage of people across the nation who identify as "strong" Catholics is at a multi-decade low.
+ And from a few years back: New York State ranked 39th nationally (out of 46 ranked states) for "importance of religion."

And from a 2012 Gallup report, many Northeastern states ranked as the "least religious". New York State was tied for 10th for the smallest percentage of residents tagged as "very religious" -- 32 percent.

[Thanks, Duncan]


Another Albany blogger recently reacted to this study as follows:

"“Post-Christian” is kind of an odd phrase. We’re not the city with the most atheists per-capita. That’s Boston with 8%. We’re not the city with the most non-Christians per-capita, I believe that’s NYC. We just seem to be the city that’s most apathetic towards Christianity."

So basically, Albany is one of the most "secular" cities in the United States according to the study.

"We don't necessarily put a lot of faith in these sorts of city rankings,"'
I see what you did there.

There's also the racial factor. For example, Latinos have a greater proportion of practicing Catholics, etc. That would explain why the big cities like NYC and LA don't rank high on the list.


Finally we are first in something that is not "Party School" rating.

Thanks for the plug, Duncan.

1. One thing to remember is that Barna Group is essentially an Evangelical Christian organization. Parts of their survey are geared towards Evangelicals, like asking if the subject has "made a commitment to Jesus" or if they "feel a responsibility to share their faith." A Catholic, Anglican or Unitarian might not check those boxes.

2. "Post-Christian" is a phrase created to describe a culture that is no longer monolithically Christian. In America, it tends to mean no longer completely Protestant. So the presence of Catholics, Mormons and other Christians could mean the region is "post-Christian," particularly to the Barna group. The presence of Jews, Pagans and Muslims - all of whom have healthy populations here - definitely makes us post-Christian.

3. All that said, these results are roughly in line with other surveys that Barna has done, as well as a Gallup poll that found the capital region near the bottom for "religiosity":

Seems like a rather tightly focused view of what is Christian. Looking at the three largest categories at the bottom of their list: "Have not attended Sunday School", "Have not attended religious small group", "Did not participate in a house church". My mother doesn't do any of those and yet I'd consider her very Christian.

The "House Church" category sends up a warning flag for me - in my experience many people who prefer separate congregations at home to attending an established church (and I'm not talking prayer at home, I'm talking complete services at home) are often do it because they don't find those churches "christian enough" for them. (my mother considers Unitarians to be just one small step up from being Atheists)

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