Why Are Millennials Leaving Church? Atheists Play An Important Role

A few days ago, Rachel Held Evans wrote on CNN’s Belief Blog about why millennial Christians (like her) were leaving the church:

I explain [to church leaders] how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.

We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

I don’t disagree with her when it comes to the perception young people have of evangelical Christianity. Rachel knows what she’s talking about in part because she has to constantly defend her religion to those who think less of her because of it — and she gets criticism from the Christian world, too, from those who think her ovaries are too liberal.

When I read her piece, though, I felt she only covered half the story. Yes, churches are pushing young people away, but atheists are also pulling those young people closer to our side.

CNN has now posted my piece in which I address what our side is doing right:

Christians can no longer hide in a bubble, sheltered from opposing perspectives, and church leaders can’t protect young people from finding information that contradicts traditional beliefs.

If there’s an open comment thread to be found on a Christian’s YouTube video or opinion piece online, there’s inevitably going to be pushback from atheists.

There has also been a push by atheists to get non-religious individuals to “come out of the closet” and let people know that they don’t believe in God.

… more than anything else, atheism’s best advertisements may be the words of Christian leaders themselves.

When Pastor Mark Driscoll belittles women, Rick Warren argues against same-sex rights or Rob Bell equivocates on the concept of hell, we amplify those messages for them — and it helps us make our point.

(It goes without saying that the pairing of Pat Robertson and YouTube has been great for atheists.)

You can read the full piece here. (I’m especially proud of the last line.)

Feel free to comment here or there if you have thoughts on the piece!

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