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The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter Hardcover – April 16, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Evangelical Christian researcher Barna believes that a U.S. in which self-interest has overtaken shared interests is spiraling toward self-destruction but that it’s not too late for the country to reinvent itself. He clearly states, however, that this book doesn’t aim to convert anyone to his religious views; indeed, he insists it is crucial for Christians to work with non-Christians. From analyzing more than 30,000 interviews with U.S. adults, Barna has determined that Americans, while belonging to more than 200 different religious affiliations, belong to just seven faith tribes: casual Christians (67 percent); captive Christians (16 percent); Jews (2 percent); Mormons (1.5 percent); pantheists, mostly Eastern religions (1.5 percent); Muslims (less than 1 percent); and skeptics, including atheists and agnostics (11 percent). Barna profiles each group’s religious beliefs, political perspectives, and self-conceptions. A chapter on the media is especially provocative, since Barna considers media exposure America’s most widespread and serious addiction. Barna’s prospective call to action will upset some and please others while remaining fascinating, important, and worthy of reflection by all its readers. --June Sawyers


Which Faith Tribe Do You Come From?
George Barna, the guru of religion pollsters known best for his work on evangelicals, has come out with a new book that says America's survival depends on the country's major belief groups -- its "Seven Faith Tribes" -- building a sense of what is the common good.
Barna's book, is based on his research, including 30,000 interviews. According to the announcement promoting the book, here is how Barna slices up the American populace's faith:
Casual Christians: Two-thirds of all adults, they profess to be Christian but it's not a priority and not integrated into their lives.
Captive Christians: One-sixth of the population, they hold what Barna describes as "biblical beliefs" and live it out in their lives.
Skeptics: Nearly 11 percent of the population, it is the largest group of non-Christians. Includes atheists and agnostics.
Jewish: At two percent, he describes them as "more of a community with a shared history and culture than a group connected by a shared doctrine."
Mormons: Less than two percent, Barna calls them the "Rodney Dangerfield of the Christian world."
Pantheists: About 1.5 percent, includes Eastern religions and the hybrid of New Ageism.
Muslims: Barna says they are less than 1 percent of the population, but the most ethnically balanced.
Pollsters live in the world of labels and categories. But Barna also makes a larger point that may be his most relevant: These groups share some common values (forgiveness, respect for the elderly, generosity) that are the keys to America's enduring success. —Robert King (Indianapolis Star)

‘Faith tribes’ can prevent America’s demise, Barna says
Pollster sees shared values as key to nation’s survival
Author and pollster George Barna is not exactly thrilled by the trends he's seeing. In fact, he is sounding an alarm by asserting that the United States is standing at "the precipice of self-annihilation." There's only one way to avoid a tragic demise, Mr. Barna believes, and that is to "recover the values that made this nation great and that must be firmly in place for order, reason, and unity to prevail." The Ventura, Calif.-based researcher outlined his views of America's downward spiral and offered his ideas for restoration in his 44th and latest book, The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter, published this month by Tyndale House. The book identifies seven "faith tribes," reviews their beliefs and lifestyles, identifies their shared values, and seeks ways to motivate the groups to work together to reverse America's decline. Mr. Barna believes the faith tribes must uphold their values in key aspects of life and society, including family, leadership, and the media. "Over the past 30 years or so that I have been doing research, you keep investigating different aspects of what's going on in our culture and you learn something with every study that you do," Mr. Barna, 54, said in an interview with The Blade this week. "After a while you begin to see patterns, you begin to see trends, you begin to see signs of what may be coming in the future that are rather ominous. "And this book is the result of that kind of long-term activity, where even though some of the research is very recent, it does build on lessons that were gained from earlier studies." When it became apparent that the United States was "really struggling," he said, his research led him to focus on ways that could lead to "radical shifts" in behavior. "As somebody who engages in strategic research, you try to figure out what are the trigger points and what are some of the solutions to those issues that you're looking at," he said. It was then that he began to see the "faith tribes," which he describes as "Casual Christians," "Captive Christians," "American Jews," "Mormons," "Pantheists," "Muslims," and "Skeptics." Some of the labels cross over traditional boundaries. Casual Christians are the largest group by far, comprising 66 percent of the U.S. adult population - 150 million out of the total of 225 million. These are people who are spiritually "middle of the road," moderately active, and theologically nominal Christians. There are about 36 million Captive Christians, or 16 percent of the population, Mr. Barna said. The group "most closely resembles what the media would probably refer to as evangelicals." Jews and Mormons each make up 2 percent of the population. Pantheists, which include Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, New Age adherents, and a wide range of faith groups, make up 1.5 percent of the population. Muslims are less than 1 percent of the adult population, while the fastest-growing faith tribe is the Spiritual Skeptics, which includes agnostics and atheists. That group makes up 11 percent of the population - nearly double the size from 25 years ago. When it comes to the Christian tribes, Mr. Barna does not toss denominations into the different categories. "What we're finding is that belonging to a denomination has less and less relationship with what you believe and how you practice your faith," he said. There are Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, or members of any Christian denomination in both the Casual and Captive tribes, he said. Describing himself as a Captive Christian, Mr. Barna said the diverse faith groups must learn to work together based on their shared values, and not try to convert others to their own faith. "The tribes will describe these shared values in different ways, but when you wade through all the different terminology and contextualization, what you find out is, 'Wow, we've really got a lot in common.' Why is that? I think it's because these are things that serve the best interests of humanity." One area in which tribes can transform American society is in leadership, Mr. Barna said, adding that religious, business, and family leadership is more critical than political leadership. "Political leadership gets most of the press, but I would say there are other forms of leadership that might be more important, because political leaders tend to be more reactive. They tend to take a lot of their cues from people whom they allegedly are serving," he said. He sees a connection between the nation's current economic downturn and the downward spiral of morality. "What happened is it kind of fed on itself and became a mentality of entitlement where we believed that we deserve this, we should have it, everything was our right and we didn't really have responsibilities. Those were for other people to worry about. Before you know it, everything was an utter mess. The fact that we have this window of opportunity is really to our advantage. A little bit of pain in the short term, but potential healing for the long term." He called for the media to "have a conscience" and not play to people's worst interests. "I've been doing a lot of research on what influences people to think what they think and do what they do, and what we've discovered is that the media are cumulatively the most influential element in people's lives - much more influential than everything else combined," Mr. Barna said. "So OK, the nation's in a mess. How did it get in a mess? Part of it has to go back to the messages that the media continually feed the people." He believes that if the seven faith tribes assert themselves and promote their shared values, the United States will reverse the recent decades of "cultural chaos and disintegration." —David Yonke (Toledo Blade)


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: BarnaBooks; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (April 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1414324049
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414324043
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,519,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

George Barna was raised and educated on the East Coast before moving to California in the early 1980s. He held executive positions in advertising, public policy, political campaigns, and media/marketing research before beginning his own company, the Barna Research Group (now The Barna Group), in 1984. The firm analyzes American culture and creates resources and experiences designed to facilitate moral and spiritual transformation. Located in Ventura, California, The Barna Group provides primary research as well as developmental resources and analytic diagnostics. The company has served several hundred parachurch ministries and thousands of Christian churches throughout the country. It has also supplied research to for-profit corporations such as Ford Motor Company, The Walt Disney Company, Visa USA, and Prudential, and has assisted the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army as well.

To date, George Barna has written more than 40 books, predominantly in the areas of leadership, trends, spiritual development, and church health. Included among them are bestsellers such as Revolution, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, The Frog in the Kettle, The Power of Vision, and Pagan Christianity? Several of his books have received national awards. He has also written for numerous periodicals and has published various syndicated reports on topics related to faith and lifestyle. He also writes a bimonthly research report, The Barna Update, which is accessed by hundreds of thousands of people through his firm's Web site ( His work is frequently cited as an authoritative source by the media. He has been hailed as "the most quoted person in the Christian church today" and is counted among its most influential leaders. In 2009, George initiated Metaformation, a new organization designed to help people maximize their potential. More information about his current projects is available from

Barna is a popular speaker at ministry conferences around the world and has taught at several universities and seminaries. He has served as a pastor of a large multiethnic church, has been involved in several church plants, and currently leads an organic church. He has served on the board of directors of various organizations. After graduating summa cum laude from Boston College, Barna earned two master's degrees from Rutgers University. At Rutgers, he was awarded the Eagleton Fellowship. He also received a doctorate from Dallas Baptist University. He lives with his wife and their three daughters in Southern California. He enjoys spending time with his family, writing, reading novels, playing and listening to guitar, relaxing on the beach, visiting bookstores, and eating pizza.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer L. Tiszai on June 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I've known of George Barna for years as the man who does polls and research on what Christians are thinking and doing. So I was more than happy to pick up his latest book to see what info I could glean from it.

I think it should be recommended reading for anyone who is responsible for reaching out to their community. And really, isn't that all of us? Because if you don't know what your neighbors are thinking, you could be making assumptions about them and missing the issues they're concerned about. The way he breaks down the predominate groups of religious thought in America, with their concerns, beliefs, and values, is a great help in understanding others who don't believe like we do.

Barna's tremendous volume of research will help anyone, from those who want to find common ground with others to those who want to know how to reach out and help care for their neighbors.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By NJ Book Lover on June 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book hits the nail on the head describing the traits of different religions in our country...anyone interested in the "personality" traits of varying religious groups..must read it...clergyman of all faiths should read it well as social workers, therapist, much of "who were are" lies in the roots of our religious upbringings.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By DLautzCinci on July 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Barna asks the reader, "Do you want the United States to be great again, badly enough to do what it takes?"

Barna argues that the United States is self-destructing because Americans no longer defend the moral values of the founding fathers. As a result, we now face issues in our government leadership, families, and mass media that threaten our future.

It is crucial for us to address the root of these problems, as Barna's research shows that leadership, family, and media are the top influences on American's lives, shaping worldviews and subsequent behaviors.

Barna urges Americans to publicly support twenty shared values that are common to all regardless of their faith.

If you want the U.S. to be great again, read Barna's book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William Dahl VINE VOICE on August 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Well...I have to be honest. When I received this book in the mail, I dropped all my other reading to devour it. When I finished (July 1st 2009), well -- it's now the end of August and what I want to say about this book required some digestion -- almost two months of digestion.

First and foremost, an admission: I am and have been for almost 20 years a consumer of George Barna's research, writing, public speaking enagagements and his take on the state of the Christian, Christianity and the Church in the U.S. More recently, I have become acquainted with the outstanding published work of Barna's protege (since 1995 and currently President of The Barna Group), David Kinnaman. Kinnaman's book - UNchristian - What a New geeneration Really Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters remains, in my opinion, the pre-eminent sysnthesis of reliable research illuminating the challenges for the Christian, Christianity and the Church in the U.S. in the 21st century.

What I observed in The Seven Faith tribes that I had not recognized is Barna's forty odd other books in print is the following:

1. Patriotism and Nationalism - Heck, the first chapter is entitled, "America Is On A Path To Self-Destruction." Personally, I share a similar sense of patriotic fervor toward this great nation. Furthermore, I share the author's hope for a bright future and an emergence from the myriad of ills this nation is currently struggling with. However, I have never witnessed Barna write about these issues as the guiding lenses through which he appears to interpret the implications of body of research he is grappling with. This is not a value judgment - simply an observation.

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Darien Gabriel on August 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book was better than I expected.

Barna does a great job outlining the 7 basic faith tribes in America and then helping us get a better picture of what they're like. I thought he'd stop there but he doesn't.

Barna then outlines his ideas for how we can impact America by focusing on the "Shared values" of these groups (which includes everyone from atheists to Muslims).

His premise is that it's going to take all of us to turn America around.

I learned a lot about the adult population of America from this book. While I'm not sure how on board I am with his premise and reason for writing the book, I appreciate his passion and vision for a better America and how the church (and I) can be a part of loving people
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Russell on October 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Barna provides research results - what are the seven faith tribes; 20 behaviors, which he terms "values," the tribes have in common; an analysis of the impact of the breakdown of the American family unit; and what he believes we should do to restore America. It is interesting to consider how America could change if the remnant of its Captive Christians trusted God enough to truly demonstrate Christ through their actions. These people would in turn embrace the other faith tribes based on our commonality rather than emphasize our differences. The result would be a new America that in many ways is more consistent with our Founders' vision. It's a great book. Don't miss it.
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