According to an August 2008 poll by Barna Group, they are both far more likely than conservatives and evangelical Christians to engage in behaviors such as unmarried sex, viewing pornography, lying, getting drunk, and gossipping. These results, sadly, are not surprising to me, as previous poll data and personal experience have proven these facts true over and over.
With regard to liberals vs. conservatives, here are the statistics when respondents were asked what behaviors they engaged in during the previous week:
On average, adults who describe themselves as “mostly liberal” on sociopolitical issues were twice as likely as those who describe themselves as “mostly conservative” to participate in activities that conflict with traditional moral perspectives. In particular, liberals were five times more likely to participate in unmarried sex (20% vs. 4%), more than three times as likely to view pornography (30% vs. 8%), more than twice as likely to lie (21% vs. 8%) and to get drunk (17% vs. 7%), and twice as likely to engage in retaliation (13% vs. 6%) and gossip (17% vs. 9%).
Atheists and agnostics don’t fare much better when compared to evangelical Christians:
Examining people’s faith perspectives revealed that evangelicals were the group most likely to follow traditional morality while atheists and agnostics were the faith segment most likely to reject those ways.
Among evangelicals, profanity (16%) and pornography (12%) were the most common transgressions. Fewer than 5% of evangelicals had engaged in gossip (4%), inappropriate sex (3%), gambling (2%), lying (1%) or drunkenness (less than one-half of one percent).
In contrast, among skeptics (atheists and agnostics) participation in the eight behaviors ranged from a low of 11% (retaliating) up to a high of 60% (using profanity). While evangelicals averaged 6% participation in each of the eight behaviors mentioned, skeptics averaged five times that level (29%). Other common acts among skeptics included exposure to pornography (50%), gossip (34%) and drunkenness (33%).
What to make of these results? Although it is possible for atheists to live moral lives, they often do not, when compared to strong Christians. Again, there is no surprise here for those of us who have come from non-belief to belief, as adults. We remember how we were before Christ changed us from the inside out. If Christ does not live inside you, you face an impossible battle. Rather than gloat, as believers, we should humbly thank God for what He’s done for us. The atheist lives just like we would without God’s grace.