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 Most Americans believe churches play a positive role in communities, and even atheists and agnostics don’t view churches harshly.

A Barna Group study released July 13 revealed a generally upbeat attitude among the public regarding how churches influence their areas. The study revealed that 78 percent of Americans believe the presence of a church has a “very” (53 percent) or “somewhat” positive (25 percent) effect on their communities, according to the Christian Examiner.

“Those with the most favorable views of churches are elders (ages 66-plus), married adults, residents of the South, women, Protestants, churchgoers, African-Americans and political conservatives,” the study said.

According to the Examiner:

Among the approximately one-fifth of Americans who disagree, 17 percent profess indifference toward the influence of churches, while one in 20 believe churches play an either very (2 percent) or somewhat (3 percent) negative role in communities, the study revealed. It noted those least likely to view churches positively include Mosaics (ages 18-27), men, never-married adults, atheists and agnostics, the unchurched, political liberals, those living in the West and Northwest, and those not registered to vote.

While atheists and agnostics were the only key demographic group not to hold a mostly positive view of churches, Barna Group President David Kinnaman noted that only 14 percent of them viewed churches negatively.

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