Barna Group Discusses the ‘Spiritually Homeless’ and Millennials Who No Longer Want to Be Christian

The Barna Group has just released their version of data on Millennials’ and faith. We know the story — about 30% of people under 30 have no religious affiliation — but Barna tries to put a Christian spin on it by characterizing those who are no longer part of the church as “spiritually homeless.”

… between high school and turning 30, 43% of these once-active[-in-church] Millennials drop out of regular church attendance — that amounts to eight million twentysomethings who have, for various reasons, given up on church or Christianity.

Over half of Millennials with a Christian background (59%) have, at some point, dropped out of going to church after having gone regularly, and half have been significantly frustrated by their faith. Additionally, more than 50% of 18-29 year olds with a Christian background say they are less active in church compared to when they were 15.

So why do people who were once part of the church no longer want to be a part of it? Barna refers to them as “Prodigals” and a fifth of them are very blunt about it: Christianity just makes no sense. Another fifth say that they had a bad experience in the church.

What’s surprising to me is that the church’s stance on the hot-button cultural issues isn’t at the top of the list:

Overall, this is bad news for church leaders (and great news for the community of reason) because they refuse to change their ways. Millennials are going to continue to leave the church as they make friends with atheists, see how the church treats women and gays and people who are of different faiths, and live in more pluralistic communities.

Barna tries to find an upside to this:

Despite the millions of twentysomethings who are conflicted with Christianity and churches, there is still some good news for the future of the American church. That’s because there are millions of Millennial Christians who are concerned for the future of their faith, have a strong desire to connect to the traditions of the church and feel a sense of excitement about church involvement.

That’s a losing proposition for the faith. It might be nice for older Christians that many kids still want tradition and a church community… but it doesn’t address the most glaring problems facing the faith right now — Christianity is untrue and Millennials are becoming increasingly aware of that. Being “Christian” no longer has a positive connotation. The way Christians have responded on cultural/social issues has been awful.

Without those issues being addressed, things will not change and more of us will be “homeless” and proud of it.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.