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VOLUME 1 • ISSUE 6   |   Release date: November 15, 2003

In This Issue
Second Coming Thwarted
Denominational Unity
Christians Believe Anything on Internet
"Holidays" Blamed for Low Attendance
Bow Hunting Analogies Increase
Top 10 Worst-Ever Life Verses
Survey Results
November Church Sign of the Month

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Barna: Christians Believe Almost Anything They Read on the Internet
Study Shows "Heightened Gullibility" Among Evangelical Web Surfers

VENTURA, CA – Preliminary findings of a study released here in early November by the Barna Research Group shows evidence of an alarming lack of caution on the part of evangelicals who surf the Web.

The study, commissioned in late 2002, set out to compare web habits of self-proclaimed evangelical Christians in the United States versus the general population. But, says Barna Research Group President George Barna, researchers serendipitously stumbled onto what appears to be an epidemic of online evangelical gullibility among the faithful.

"Some of these discoveries just changed the whole course of the study entirely," Barna said. "When we saw the numbers, we knew that we had to explore this further."

A summary of the study reveals that 85 percent of evangelical Christian Web surfers consider themselves "discriminating" about the information that they read on the Internet, compared to 77 percent of people in the general population. However, 75 percent of the Christian Internet users who consider themselves "discriminating" admit that they rarely or never research the source of the information they read online. Among the general populace: a mere 43 percent.

The study also asserts that a staggering 91 percent of evangelical Christian Internet users admit that they have fallen victim to an online prank or e-mail scam within the last 12 months. Only 42 percent of the general population admits to having done so.

The Department of Internet Fraud reports that in 2002 alone a total of $127.8 million of Christians' money was stolen from oversees as a result of a single e-mail scam. It involves an urgent request from a rich man in Africa who needs foreign bank account numbers so he can hide his riches offshore. The victim is promised 10% of his wealth for helping.

Darla Flecker, one of this scam's victims, recalls, "I was so excited because I was promised $2.9 million if I let him hold his money in my bank account! I didn't want to screw it up so I immediately sent him all of my bank account numbers and passwords. I also sent him all of my credit card information—I figured better safe than sorry. I first realized something was wrong when I saw an $8,900 leopard skin recliner on my visa card statement. I did NOT order that!"

"It's startling that a group of people who have placed their faith in the Bible – a text that has stood the test of time like no other – would be so easily hoodwinked by written material as transitory as what you find on the Internet or in e-mail," said James Worthington, president of the Religious Studies Institute – a Chicago-based inter-faith think tank. "It seems that we have a case of 'in the world, but not of the world wide web'. I swear, Christians will believe anything! One Christian news Web site reported printing a satirical article about manna appearing in Sinai again, which led to a 2540% increase in traffic to their site after end-times fanatics starting propagating the 'event' as truth!"

For his part, Barna hopes that the study, the full version of which will be released early next year, will challenge Christians to be more careful about the information they come across online.

"We plan to publish the entire study on the Internet," Barna said. "That way, we can rest assured that a healthy majority of evangelicals will take it seriously."

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