Written by Bennett Guess
Almost three-quarters of Americans who haven't darkened the door of a church in the last six months think it is "full of hypocrites," and even more of them consider Christianity to be more about organized religion than about loving God and people, according to a new survey.
Almost half those surveyed -- 44 percent -- agreed that "Christians get on my nerves."
But the survey of "unchurched" Americans by LifeWay Research also found that some 78 percent said they would be willing to listen to someone who wanted to tell them about his or her Christian beliefs.
Researchers, affiliated with the Southern Baptists' LifeWay Christian Resources, defined "unchurched" as Christians who haven't attended church in six months as well as non-Christians such as Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists.
The findings echoed a previous study by The Barna Group that found the vast majority of young non-Christians view Christianity as anti-gay, judgmental and hypocritical.
Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, said the finding that 79 percent of respondents thought Christianity was more about organized religion than about loving God and people should challenge individual Christians.
"That really needs to cause the church to check themselves a little bit and to say, `OK, how can we get back to the main thing?'" he said.
Other findings showed many of those surveyed believed in God but don't feel the need to express those beliefs within a church building.
Almost three-quarters -- 72 percent -- agreed that God "actually exists"
and an even larger percentage -- 86 percent -- said they believed they could have a good relationship with God without church involvement.
The study was based on an overall sample of 1,402 adults who were interviewed by phone in 2007, including 900 ages 18-29 and 502 age 30 and older. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.