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The Lies Evangelicals Tell About Being Former Atheists or Evangelizing the Godless

calvin hobbes atheist

It seems these days that every Evangelical preacher, evangelist, and apologist has a story about an atheist who saw the truth of Fundamentalist Christianity and got saved. Some of these zealots have personal testimonies of their atheism before they became Christians. After listening to or reading dozens of such stories, I have concluded that many of these storytellers are liars for Jesus; that careful examination of their stories reveal ignorance of what atheism is and isn’t.

Many Evangelicals believe that all non-believers are atheists. Of course, when I argue that all babies are born into this world atheists, Evangelicals object, saying that all humans are born with a God-given conscience. So which is it? Non-believers are atheists or non-believers have a God-given conscience? Are humans naturally blank slates upon which tribal religion must be written or are they born with God-shaped holes in their hearts? If no one is born Christian, then what is the nature of a newborn baby?

Atheism is not the human default. Atheism requires an act of volition. An atheist, then, lacks belief in the existence of Gods. Claiming the atheism moniker requires a person to actually think about the existence of God(s). Sadly, far too many people use the atheist label to cover up intellectual laziness or indifference towards religion. I prefer such people use the NONE label. Atheists, on the other hand, have weighed religion in the balance and found it wanting. Many atheists are actually quite conversant on matters of religion, having spent some or much of their lives believing in God. It should come as no surprise that many atheists know the Bible better than practicing Christians. It was the Bible that ultimately led them into unbelief and atheism.

So when I hear Evangelical talking heads speak of being atheists before they became Christians, I want them to explain how they are using the word “atheist.” More often than not, they are using the word incorrectly. The word “atheist” is not a placeholder for unbelief. When an Evangelical tells me he was an atheist before becoming a Christian, I want to know exactly how he became an atheist. If he says, oh, I always was an atheist, I then know that he was a NONE and not an atheist. The same goes for people who say they were Evangelicals, became atheists, and then later returned to Evangelicalism. While it is certainly within the realm of possibility for someone to follow such a path, I have a hard time believing someone who says he was a studious atheist, realized the error of his way, and became an Evangelical. Knowing first-hand what goes into someone leaving Evangelicalism and embracing atheism, I can’t imagine someone rejecting all he knows to be true for a belief system that he has already deemed incoherent, irrational, and false. It leaves me wondering, what is the real reason for returning to the Evangelical cult?

Evangelicals-turned-atheists go through great intellectual and psychological struggles before divorcing themselves from Jesus. Rarely do such people have an atheist version of the Evangelical born-again experience; where a person instantaneously goes from unbeliever to believer. Most atheists I know spent months or years deciding whether Christianity was true. And even then, they often didn’t embrace atheism right away. Desperately wanting to hang onto some version of God and life after death, many atheists dabble with liberal/progressive Christianity, Unitarian-Universalism, or other religions before concluding that all extant deities are myths. In my own personal experience, I stopped numerous times along the slippery slope towards unbelief, hoping that I could find a religion and a God I could live with. Ultimately, I hit bottom, realizing all the deities in the extant panoply of Gods are powerless mythical beings.

The next time a Christian tells you that he was an atheist before Jesus gloriously saved him from his sins, ask him to explain the word atheist to you. Ask him, when, how, and why did you become an atheist? If he can’t give a clear-cut testimony of how he came to a lack of belief in the existence of Gods, then it is likely that he was never an atheist or he was, at best, a cultural atheist (as is the case in some European countries where most people are born into atheist homes or who have never had any form of religious experience).

Some atheists want the attach certain philosophical, political, or social beliefs to the word atheist. I see this happening with social justice issues. Godless social justice warriors demand atheists embrace their causes if they plan on claiming the atheist label. While I agree with them on many of the issues, I refuse to make adherence to certain political or social issues a litmus test for being a True Atheist®.

I see atheism as a big tent. Yes, most atheists I know are politically liberal/progressive. But I do know a few atheists who are libertarians, and I even know — I shudder to think how it is possible — several atheists who voted for Donald Trump. I must live with the fact that some of my fellow atheists have different political beliefs from mine. We agree when it comes to religion, holy books, and gods, but when it comes to economics, abortion, and the designated hitter rule, our beliefs diverge.

Christians rightly object when ill-informed atheists define Christianity/Evangelicalism differently from the way that the cult members do. The followers of Jesus have every right to define what it means to be a Christian; they have every right to define what their beliefs are. The same respect should be granted atheists. It irritates the Heaven out of me when a Christian zealot refuses to allow me to define who and what I am. Among atheists, there’s a common definition of atheism: the lack of belief in the existence of Gods. Any beliefs beyond that do not require atheism. For example, I am a humanist. While many (most?) atheists are humanists, humanism does not require a lack of belief in the existence of gods. More than a few believers consider themselves Christian humanists or religious humanists. Atheism, then, is simply my belief about the existence of gods. Humanism is the moral and ethical framework by which I govern my life. It is, in effect, my Ten Commandments, my law of God.

I wish Evangelical pastors would invite atheists to their churches to educate congregants about atheism. Far too many Christians are ill-informed about atheism, having only heard what their preachers say on the matter or read what Dr. Blow Hard says in his polemical rant against atheists (and the same could be said about atheists who are ignorant of Christian doctrine and practice). Atheists, contrary to what Evangelicals have been told, don’t worship Satan, nor do they deny God’s existence just so they can behave immorally. Atheists are not evil God-haters who want to imprison Christians and burn down houses of worship. The caricature most Evangelicals have of atheists is every bit as mythical as their God.

Have you met Christians who claim that they were atheists before getting saved, or who once were Christians but who deconverted and later returned to the faith?  If you are an Evangelical-turned-atheist, how did your pastor define atheism? If you are currently a Christian, how does what you hear from the pulpit about atheists/atheism compare with what I have written here?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Reacting Against the Inevitable

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Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

This year’s Easter/Passover/Ramadan season has been interesting. For one thing it’s the second such holiday cycle during the COVID-19 pandemic. For another, it witnessed two developments that, at first glance seem contradictory.

The first: A Gallup poll revealed that fewer than 50 percent of Americans identify themselves as members of a church, synagogue, mosque or other religious institution. That is the smallest proportion since 1937, when Gallup first asked the question and 73 percent claimed to be so affiliated.

The second: Arkansas’ state legislature overrode Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto of a bill that would bar transgender girls from participating in school sports program and would keep health-service professionals from providing transgender-related health care to minors. Similar legislation is on the table in other states, and in others even more draconian measures are under review: Health care professionals who help young trans people get the care they need could face long prison sentences and the revocation of their licenses and certificates.

Although those two developments seem at odds with each other, it actually makes perfect sense that some states are trying to keep young transgender people from affirming themselves at the same time more Americans are dissociating themselves from churches.

Why is that?

Any time a major cultural or societal change is underway reaction to it can be fierce and even violent. Think of the Counter-Reformation, or the way cops and everyday citizens—let alone Klan members—tried, brutally, to resist the Civil Rights movement.

The bad news is, of course, that reactionary people and movements foment fear and hatred, and inspire or even embolden haters to all manner of violence, including murder. The silver lining, if you will, is that the virulence of their reaction is a sure sign that they are ultimately on the wrong, and losing, side of history.

At the dawn of the Civil Rights movement, for every white American who participated in a lynching or cross-burning, there were many more who accepted or rationalized Jim Crow laws as well as other, subtler kinds of discrimination. They might not have chased a black kid off their block, but they didn’t want the same black kid to date, let alone marry, their kid. They knew, deep down, that change was needed but “the time wasn’t right.”

Slowly, such people became aware of their own deeply-held, and often unconscious, assumptions and realized there was no rational basis for them. Moreover, they came to realize that the American system of apartheid was not only unjust and irrational; it benefited no one. The Loving decision not only righted a wrong; it aligned with the Constitution and simply made logical sense. The social order would not be broken by people marrying people of “different” races any more than it would be when members of those “different” races—or faiths or gender identities– entered schools, professions and neighborhoods that, previously, had been off-limits to them.

So, racist beliefs could no more be defended than rigid ideas about gender roles, identities and hierarchies with science, logic or law. The Loving decision deemed that “miscegenation” laws violated the Constitution; four and a half decades later, Robert Shelby, a conservative Republican judge in Utah, would declare that state’s laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman as unconstitutional (a pivotal moment, I believe, in the fight for marriage equality). In a similar vein, Asa Hutchinson—a Republican– vetoed an anti-transgender youth bill because, he said, its restrictions were “government overreach.” By the time those actions were taken, people had come to realize that gender identity and sexual orientation cannot be legislated or medicated away, and that racial purity is a myth at best and a lie at worst. (The human race began in Africa. That’s Anthropology 101.)

Those events, of course, have everything to do with Americans’ loosening relationship to churches and such: Nearly all of organized religion—especially Evangelical Christianity—is predicated on racial/ethnic hierarchies and rigid gender identities and roles. It’s pretty difficult to tell a woman to submit herself to a man, in her home or in a church, when she’s running a business or graduating at the top of her law school class. Even if it were possible or even feasible, there just isn’t any rational reason why a woman should stand back if she knows better about something than her male spouse or colleague—or why she should align herself with an institution where she is, at best, a second-class citizen and, at worst, a mere incubator.

Those who benefit from such systems of oppression are, of course, not happy to see the edifices that hold them up being dismantled, brick by brick, or eroded. They also worry that people, especially the young, are not interested in upholding those structures or institutions. The young make up a large portion of the religiously unaffiliated (“nones”), Gallup found.

It means that, deep down, religiously affiliated and reactionary folks know they aren’t going to find replacements for themselves among their children. So, they know that whatever they feel the need to do, they’ll have to do more of, with more intensity, for as long as they can. Their behavior will become more extreme, and they will do whatever they can to hold to their notions of gender, marriage, family and society. That means forcing those notions on everyone else through irrational prohibitions. The only way to get people to support such bans is to stoke their fears by invoking stereotypes, junk science and outright lies. And the only way to enforce those bans is through force. What I have just described culminated in Donald Trump’s judicial appointments: He chose jurists who oppose what most Americans want, including safe and legal access to abortion, the right to marry whomever they wish and to live in accordance with whatever they know to be true about themselves.

Those judicial appointments, the law Asa Hutchinson tried to stop and other retrograde actions and policies are thus part of a reaction against the inevitable: the secularization of the United States of America. Somehow it’s fitting that they came together during the Easter/Passover/Ramadan season.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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How to Tell Your Evangelical Parents You Are an Atheist

coming out as an atheist

In the Western world, Evangelical churches are hemorrhaging members left and right — particularly younger congregants. Evangelical pollsters and church growth gurus continue to discuss WHY so many people raised in Evangelical families are exiting stage left once they get out of high school, and WHAT can be done to retain them. I managed restaurants for several major fast-food chains. Several of the stores I managed faced declining sales. As manager, I was tasked with figuring out why customer counts were down and what could be done to get former and new customers to spend their money at the restaurant. This is exactly what is going on in Evangelical churches.

Churches and their pastors know that their future rests in retaining younger members after they graduate from high school and go off to college. Yet, most Evangelical churches (don’t let megachurches skew the picture of what is really happening) are losing younger members — not replacing the older church members who are dying off. Average congregation age continues to climb, especially among sects such as the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest Protestant sect in the United States.

The reasons for these defections are many. However, it seems clear that many young adults are leaving their childhood religious homes because of politics, science, and Evangelicalism’s increasing inability to honestly answer the hard questions of life. Younger adults refuse to be placated by appeals to faith and authority. If their church leaders can’t answer their questions, then these budding skeptics look elsewhere. Further, Evangelical churches, pastors, and educational institutions threw their weight behind the culture war, justifiably earning the label as the most hated religion in America. Younger Christians watched from the sidelines as their pastors, teachers, and parents supported Donald Trump, villainized LGBTQ people, labored to outlaw abortion, and supported systematic racism. These young adults rightly concluded that they no longer wanted anything do to with their parents’ religion.

Most Evangelicals have what I call a “borrowed faith.” The bulk of Evangelical members were raised in the church. Everything they heard and experienced reinforced the faith taught to them by their parents, pastors, and youth leaders. For readers not raised in such environments, it is often hard to understand how isolated and intellectually stilted such places are. Everything is governed by a set of propositional facts about God, Jesus, the Bible, and their peculiar version of Christianity. While “questions” are sometimes permitted, the only answers allowed are those which conform to the one true faith.

Evangelical pastors know they must protect their churches from the Philistine horde outside the gates, so they use lies, distortions, and repetition of beliefs to hopefully inoculate their congregations from faith destroying questions and doubts. Churches and their pastors know that atheism and agnosticism are existential threats to their existence, so what do they do? They either pretend there’s no such thing as an atheist (Romans 1) or they lie about what it is atheists actually believe. One need only watch YouTube videos shat out by Evangelical apologists to see how these men grossly misrepresent atheist beliefs. If atheism is no threat to Evangelicalism, why all the interest from apologists? If God and his Word will always prevail against the godless, why do apologists spend so much time attacking atheism? Their behavior suggests that atheism is a real and present danger for Evangelical churches. Thus, pastors and apologists are willing to lie, distort, and misrepresent atheist beliefs (and their own beliefs) in their attempts to hang on to those whom pollsters call the “Nones.”

Nones are best described as those who are disaffected by religion. While many Nones are atheists or agnostics, some are not. Nones are often people who no longer give a shit about the religion of their youth. Quite simply, their churches, pastors, and parents no longer provide adequate answers to their doubts and questions. Many of them are sickened by the Evangelical culture war and the reduction of church on Sundays into a spectator sport. Four years of support for Donald Trump and the immoral policies of the Republican Party have driven thoughtful, caring young adults out of the church. And what do many Evangelical apologists and pastors do? They double-down, suggesting that the problem is a lack of Bible knowledge among young adults. “Get back in church,” these preachers demand, “and listen to my preaching.” These supposed men of God think that there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a few verses and sermons from the Bible. They refuse to acknowledge that the real issue is that disaffected young adults no longer buy what they are selling; that behavior speaks louder than words. These salesmen for Jesus also fail to understand that the Nones often sat in their churches for years, silently plotting exits from these temples of ignorance and irrationality. Over the years, I have corresponded with countless young adults who were biding their time until they were old enough to stop attending church or move out on their own. Some of the people I have talked with have actually escaped the snare of Fundamentalism, but they keep the true nature of their beliefs secret. Even older people can be trapped behind enemy lines, so to speak, unable or unwilling to tell their spouses, children, parents, and grandparents that they no longer believe.

I am often asked for advice on how to tell your Evangelical parents that you no longer believe in God. (Please see Count the Cost Before You Say “I am an Atheist.” This is not an easy question to answer due to the fact that there are so many variables to consider. When my wife and I left Christianity in 2008, I drafted a letter and sent it to family, friends, former parishioners, and colleagues in the ministry. (Please see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.) While this letter was signed by both of us, it was largely received as coming from me alone. Polly was viewed as a lemming, a woman under the spell of her husband — a lie that still irritates the hell out of her to this day. Polly’s mother and extended family — all Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB) — believe that once I die Polly will come running back to Jesus and the church. They think so little of her that they refuse to acknowledge that it was her decision alone to tell Jesus to take a hike.

Over the past 12 years, we have paid a heavy price for sending out that letter. We have lost all of our friends, and family relationships are strained to the point of breaking. I have been asked if I had to do it all over again would I still send out the letter? Looking at the carnage that came from the letter, was it worth it? Would it have been better for all involved if I just ducked and kept quiet? Maybe, but that has never been my style. I knew the Evangelical gossip mills were working overtime as they deconstructed my life, my ministry, and even my marriage. The only way I knew to control what was being said about me and Polly was to write a letter and send it to hundreds of family members, friends, former parishioners, and colleagues in the ministry. I thought, naively, that this would put an end to the lies and gossip. Silly me. I should have known better. While the deconstructions of my life have waned a bit, I still hear from people from time to time or learn second or third hand that I am still be talked about behind my back. So while I stand on decision to send a letter to those who knew me, I would never suggest to anyone else that they do the same — that is unless you want immediate fireworks and assaults on your character.

Many Evangelicals-turned-atheists quietly leave the religion of their parents and family behind. They dodge questions or obfuscate the true nature of their unbelief. “Mom, I just haven’t found a church that I like,” a little white lie that hides the fact she hasn’t darkened the doors of a church since going to college. I am what most people consider the village atheist. I live in rural northwest Ohio, five miles from the place of my birth. I can safely say that virtually everyone knows who I am. Yet, on occasion, I will run into older people (who often don’t have computers/Internet) who knew me from my preaching days. They will ask me, “Bruce, where are you preaching these days?” assuming I am still a Bible-believing preacher. I typically reply, “I am not preaching anywhere right now, ” and then I so quickly change the subject that they don’t know what hit them. Should I give them a rundown of my loss of faith in the middle of the grocery store? I think not. Am I deliberately deceiving them? No. I am just choosing what questions to answer. I don’t owe anyone an accounting of my life.

Some Evangelicals-turned-atheists want to be out and proud. They are tired of hiding in the shadows, tired of giving evasive answers to questions about their religious beliefs and relationship with Jesus. Yet, they know that sharing with their parents that they have abandoned the family deity will not only cause conflict but hurt the people they love. Further, there is a real risk of being excommunicated from their family.

For those of you who want to stand up at the next post-COVID family reunion and shout, I AM AN ATHEIST!, I suggest that you carefully weigh the consequences of doing so. I am not saying that you shouldn’t do this — far from it. However, once you out yourself to your parents, you no longer control what happens next. LGBTQ readers can tell us this is true, and that often there is a heavy price to be paid for being true to self.

And therein lies the fundamental issue for Evangelicals-turned-atheists: being true to self. We all want to live authentic lives. We all want the right to be who and what we are. Unfortunately, Evangelical Christianity is not known for love, acceptance, and tolerance. Countless atheists were cut off from their families, told never to return until they “got right with God.” It is heartbreaking to learn that many Evangelical parents love Jesus and their church far more than they love their atheist children. In fact, such people believe their churches are their true families. The notion that blood is thicker than water just doesn’t apply in many Evangelical families.

Generally, I encourage Evangelicals-turned-atheists to be honest and frank with their believing parents. Life is too short to deny who and what you really are. If your parents truly love you, they will understand. Maybe not today, tomorrow, or a year from now, but they will eventually embrace you as their son or daughter, regardless of your beliefs. And if they don’t? Then you have to ask yourself if you really want to continue to have a relationship with your parents. I know, I know, harsh words, but your life is short, my friend, and isn’t it better to surround yourself with people who genuinely love you and accept you as you are? And it goes without saying that we should do the same for our parents. We are not asking them to join our merry band of heathens. All that ask for is respect.

I hope you find this post helpful. I would love to hear you tell of your own experiences with your parents in the comment section. What advice would you give to Evangelicals-turned-atheists who no longer want to lurk in the shadows of life?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Evangelical Daniel Mann Can’t Figure Out Why Atheists are Increasing in Number

atheists

Daniel Mann is an Evangelical zealot. His goal in life, according to his blog, is: “Defending the Christian faith and promoting its wisdom against the secular and religious challenges of our day.”

Mann has a real John Holmes-sized hard-on for atheists. He frequently attacks, maligns, and lies about atheists But, he loves Jesus, so such behavior is ignored and forgiven (by God).

Mann is perplexed over why the number of atheists is increasing. With a straight face, Mann says: Atheists are growing in number, but it is not clear why. Oh, it’s very clear WHY American Christianity is dying on the vine, and why the fasting growing “religion” in America is the “nones.” Google is your friend, Daniel. But instead of acknowledging the real reasons for mass deconversions, Mann concocts a Trump-like false narrative:

Scientific findings are continually uncovering more examples of intricate design and functionality, which defy chance probability and, therefore, point to a Designer. Besides, atheists cannot offer any compelling proofs against the existence of God.  

The “Problem of Evil” is perhaps the most prominent example of this. Atheists have long claimed that if God is perfectly good and powerful as the bible claims, there should not be suffering or, at least, so much suffering. However, this challenge depends upon their understanding of the Biblical concepts of goodness, love, and omnipotence.  

It, therefore, can be argued that the atheists have mis-construed these concepts. For example, perhaps God is bringing forth the ultimate good through suffering. Besides, if eternal realities are at play in deciding this question, we would have to weigh their challenge in view of these realities. In other words, the denial of the existence of God is a big claim based upon a microcosm of mis-construed evidence regarding the ultimate and eternal “good.” Perhaps also they have left out of their understanding of “good” the concept of “justice.”  

As a fallback position, atheists often claim that God is irrelevant to their lives and even to science. However, this claim lacks any evidential support. What evidence do they have that God doesn’t provide the air they breath [sic] or that He doesn’t hold together every molecule of their lungs and bodily functions? None! What evidence is there against the theistic claim that God undergirds all science by every atom He has created and sustains and by all the elegant and immutable laws of science? None!  

Why then are there atheists?

Let me give Mann evidence for the increasing number of atheists: look in the mirror, dude. It’s dishonest Evangelicals like you that lead scores of Christians away from the faith, and keep doubters and questioners from sticking around. When you are known for lying about people you disagree with — namely atheists — you can’t be surprised when your behavior causes people to exit stage left. Instead of accepting at face value the reasons people leave Christianity and become atheists, you construct a false narrative and then say, “this is what atheist REALLY believe.”

Keep up the good work, Daniel.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: Americans Increasingly Indifferent Towards Christianity

The United States is becoming a less Christian country, and the decline in religious affiliation is particularly rapid among younger Americans, new figures show.

The proportion of US adults who describe themselves as Christian has fallen to two-thirds, a drop of 12 percentage points over the past decade, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

Over the same period, the proportion of those describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” has risen by 17 percentage points to more than a quarter of the adult population.

Although churches and faith movements continue to exert strong political influence on the Trump administration and at the state level, the proportion of American adults attending religious services has declined.

The proportion of US adults who are white born-again or evangelical Protestants – the religious group which strives hardest to see its political agenda adopted – is now 16%, down from 19% a decade ago.

The number going to church at least once or twice a month has fallen by seven percentage points over the past decade. More Americans now say they attend religious services a few times a year or less (54%) than say they attend at least monthly (45%).

The fall in religious identification and activity has affected both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. According to Pew, 43% of adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And 20% are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009.

Fewer than half of millennials (49%) describe themselves as Christians; four in 10 are religious “nones”, and 9% identify with non-Christian faiths.

As many millennials say they never attend religious services (22%) as those who say they go at least once a week.

Pew’s report, released on Thursday, says the decline of Christian communities is continuing at a rapid pace.

Religious ‘nones’ have grown across multiple demographic groups: white people, black people and Hispanics; men and women; all regions of the country; and among college graduates and those with lower levels of educational attainment.

“Religious ‘nones’ are growing faster among Democrats than Republicans, though their ranks are swelling in both partisan coalitions. And although the religiously unaffiliated are on the rise among younger people and most groups of older adults, their growth is most pronounced among young adults,” the report said.

— The Guardian, Americans Becoming Less Christian as Over a Quarter Follow no Religion, October 17, 2019

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Catholic Shane Schaetzel Confuses Deism With Religious Indifference

shane schaetzel

From the middle of the 20th century onward, religious sentiments in the United States shifted again. While Marxist atheism [Look, Bub, Marxism and atheism are not the same thing. You are deliberately lying to suggest otherwise. Surely, you are aware of the fact that there are Marxist Catholics?] took a strong hold in Europe, Russia and Eastern Asia, the West saw a modest incline in the number of atheists as well. Here in the United States, the number of Atheists went from about 0.5% to a whopping 3%, which is hardly noticeable really. That number has remained nearly unchanged in 30 years, fluctuating between 2% and 4% depending on who’s doing the survey. The average is 3%. [ That’s almost 10 million people, Bub.] That’s hardly a number any of us should worry about, but what atheists lack in numbers they make up for in noise. They like to flood Internet blogs, forums and chat rooms with their comments. They mock Christians and their beliefs. [No, most atheists mock Christian beliefs, not Christian people.] They file lawsuits against municipal, county and state governments for religious symbols on public property. They have a legal stranglehold on the public school systems. (All of these are Marxist tactics by the way.) For such a small percentage of the population, they absolutely demand to be heard, and they have no problem using everything at their disposal to make sure they are.[ Yes, we use things such as the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.]

Modern atheists like to point to recent declines in church affiliation as a triumph of atheism in American society. Indeed, the very word “atheist” is bantered around casually by young people these days, who have no religious affiliation whatsoever, and obviously don’t understand what the word really means. These are referred to as the “nones” because they answer “none” to the question of religious affiliation in surveys. However, when you really dig down into what these people actually believe, you’ll find out that they do believe in “a God” of some type, but they just don’t think it’s the God of Christianity or the Bible.

Yes, you read that right. The majority of “nones” today, who casually banter the word “atheist” in reference to themselves, will admit that they do believe in “a God” of some kind. If you ask them if this is the God who created nature and the universe, they will almost universally say “yes.” If you ask if characteristics of this God can be known by human reason or science, again they will almost universally say “yes.” I submit to you that what we are witnessing unfold in the United States right now is not the triumph of atheism, but rather a return to colonial-style Deism. It shouldn’t surprise us really. Americans have been down this road before. A large number of English colonists in America were Deist in the 18th century, and this century was sandwiched between two devoutly Protestant era’s [sic] in the 17th and 19th centuries. In abandoning Christian churches, Americans are simply going back to what they know as familiar to them — Deism. [Mr. Complete Christianity might want to talk to a few more NONES — especially Millennials — before coming to such ill-informed, asinine conclusions. NONES don’t give a shit about religion, period. Sure, they might think there is some sort of universal or divine energy, but Deism? Not a chance.]

….

If we’re going to re-evangelize the West, we have to understand who our primary target audience is. The “nones” are overwhelmingly Deists not atheists. [Wrong, but continue.] We don’t need to spend a whole lot of time arguing for the existence of God. Most “nones” already believe a God exists. Wrong, but continue.]They just don’t believe he’s the God of the Bible. Too many Christians spend way too much time trying to prove God exists with arguments about “First Cause” and “Pascal’s Wager,” which are all good arguments by the way. There is a reason why, however, I’ve only dedicated one page of this blog to them. It’s because the atheist argument against the existence of God is irrelevant. There just aren’t enough of atheists to really matter. [Keep telling yourself that, Bub. How about in Europe, also known as the America of the future?] Atheists have their product and nobody’s buying it. [Really? In the last decade alone, the paid membership of the Freedom From Religion Foundation has doubled. By all means tell us how does that growth compare to the number of Catholics actually attending Mass on Sundays?] Just 3% of the market share, after hundreds of years in business, isn’t much to brag about. Rather, we Christians should be spending our time focusing on who God is, not on proving whether or not he exists.

In focusing our arguments on proving the existence of God, we are narrowing our outreach to just 3% of the population. This is a group of people who likely won’t listen to us anyway. [Finally, you stopped talking out of your ass. Atheists aren’t listening because we find Christian arguments and evidence unpersuasive. Want to “reach” us? Change your schtick.] Marxist atheism, built entirely on coercion, is dying around the world [Of course, Catholicism is known as a “friendly” religion that never coerced anyone into believing, right? Talk about a huge disconnect from historical reality.] Western atheism is nearly irrelevant [Yet, you continue to rage against atheism. Why is that?] and always has been. Very few people in this group will ever listen to us. Don’t waste your time with them. Move on to more fertile ground. [And all Loki’s people said, AMEN!]

Most “nones” are Deists [Liar, liar, pants on fire. Stop making shit up, Bub.], so that means they believe in some kind of God, and most will tell you it’s the God of Nature, or the Creator God. Beyond that they won’t say who “he” or “she” is, or even if gender can be properly assigned to this Creator God. When I encounter a “none” who calls himself an “atheist,” I’ll usually ask: “So do you really believe there is absolutely no God at all, whatsoever? Or are you more inclined to say there probably is a God of nature, just not the God of the Bible or organized religion?” Almost always, at least 9 times out of 10, the “none” will respond by choosing the latter. At this point I’ll inform him that he’s not really an atheist then, because atheists don’t believe in a God. [Bub, you don’t even know how to define the words atheism/atheist.] Rather, he’s a Deist, and he’s in good company with many of America’s founding fathers, and a good number of famous scientists. You would be surprised to learn how many of these people readily accept being called a Deist, but will admit they’ve never heard the word before. [By all means, share the stories of people you have converted from “atheism” to “Deism.”]

— Shane Schaetzel, Complete Christianity, America’s Religion of Deism, May 26, 2019

Nones, Dones, and Atheists

what is a none

Guest post by ObstacleChick

Recently, I have read blog post comments by people who describe themselves as former atheists who later turned to religion. Their description of the term “atheist” differs from what I think of when I use the term. Dictionary.com describes an atheist as “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.” So as to not employ the “No True Scotsman” fallacy with regard to people who purport to be atheists-turned-religionists, I thought it would be a good idea to research the similarities and differences among people who are “nones,” “dones,” and atheists. What I found helped me to understand these demographics a bit better.

“Nones” is the name given by pollsters to represent the growing number of people who report that they do not identify with any particular religion; people who are indifferent towards organized religion. This seems to be a broad category that consists of a variety of different groups. Some people identifying as “nones” were not raised in religion, or had limited exposure to religion, and thus do not identify strongly enough with any one religion to don a religious label. Other “nones” used to be active in a religion, but are no longer affiliated with any particular sect or congregation. Some of those who are no longer affiliated with a particular congregation consider themselves to be “spiritual, but not religious” while others say they do not believe in the supernatural. There are some “nones” like my brother, who refuses to be part of a church congregation but who is very devout, choosing to follow wherever he believes “the Holy Spirit” or some other deity leads him. (Honestly, I am not sure if my brother would identify as a “none.” It would depend on the wording of the question, as he refers to himself as “a follower of Christ.”) Agnostics and atheists are “nones” by nature, as they do not identify with a religion. While agnostics and atheists characterize themselves as “nones,” not all “nones” may be characterized as agnostics or atheists. As you can see, the moniker “nones” encompasses a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs regarding the supernatural or deities.

The “dones” are people who were once very involved in a religion but who have chosen to walk away. They are often referred to as being “unchurched” or “dechurched.” While many (like my brother) retain their faith, they no longer attend traditional religious services. Some “dones” are a subset of the “nones” to the degree that they do not consider themselves members of a congregation, but they may still identify with a religion to the extent that they did not lose their faith. As I am an atheist and my brother is a devout though unchurched Christian, I consider us to be polar opposites in the “done” category.

Not to be forgotten are agnostics and atheists. Agnostics and atheists would fall into the category of “nones” in that they do not express affiliation with a particular religion. Some agnostics and atheists may be atheists by default, having not been raised in a religious household — my kids fall into this category. My kids can offer reasons why they do not believe in a deity or deities, but they do not feel strongly either positively or negatively toward any religion. Some default agnostics and atheists may not possess strong reasons why they do not believe in deities other than the fact that they were not indoctrinated into believing in the supernatural; other agnostics and atheists not raised in a religion may have strong arguments as to why they are atheists. Some agnostics and atheists were raised in a religious household, and we became “dones” to the extent that we are finished with religion and then took it a step further by ceasing to believe in deities. Those of us who are “nones,” “dones,” and agnostics or atheists have often studies a great deal about our former religion’s claims as well as history, archaeology, biology, mythology, and so forth. We seek evidence that either supports or does not support religious claims, and we can generally give reasons to support our claims that deities do not or are likely not to exist. Some of us who are “nones,” “dones,” and agnostics or atheists feel strongly that certain sects of religion are harmful to members and to those that members themselves persecute outside their religion.

Do you consider yourself to be a “none”, a “done”, an agnostic or atheist, or perhaps some combination?

“What’s the Point of Jesus Anyway?” by ObstacleChick

all about jesus

A guest post by ObstacleChick

A recent research survey from Barna Group shows that more members of Generation Z — people born 1999-2015 — than any other generation consider themselves to be atheist, agnostic, or non-religious. Fully thirty-five percent of Generation Z members self-identify as atheist, agnostic or non-religious. By comparison, thirty percent of millennials, thirty percent of Generation X, and twenty-six percent of Baby Boomers self-report within this group. Additionally, thirteen-percent of Generation Z respondents identify as atheist as opposed to seven percent of millennials.

Many have speculated as to why so many within the younger generations are abandoning identification with or the practice of religion, and there are many factors at play. With the widespread availability of internet access, media access, and social media, people are able to connect with others from a variety of backgrounds from around the world. Anyone with a smartphone can look up any information on demand. And interestingly, Generation Z are more savvy when it comes to understanding that much of what they see on social media is fantasy – there are filter apps, apps for changing one’s appearance, lighting, etc. As my eighteen-year-old daughter says, there is absolutely no reason anyone would post an unflattering picture of themselves on social media – you can make any photo, any selfie, look the way you want it to look. Many in this generation understand that nothing is as it seems and everything is about marketing.

I asked my kids what they and their friends think about religion. As background, I grew up in Tennessee in a Southern Baptist family and attended a fundamentalist evangelical Christian school from grades five through twelve. I was taught young earth creationism and was thoroughly indoctrinated with the fundamentalist evangelical doctrines of salvation (virgin birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus for our sins), inerrancy of the scriptures and literal truth of the Bible, original sin, and so forth. My husband was raised nominally Catholic, which means he was baptized as an infant, received first communion at age seven or eight, attended church sporadically (mostly on Christmas and Easter), sometimes gave up something for Lent, didn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent, and didn’t know what kind of Christian he was when I asked him early in our relationship. His family members were raised Catholic, but many barely attend mass, and the millennial cousins don’t practice the religion at all. My husband and I attended a progressive Christian church until our kids were about seven and five years old, and other than the occasional funeral or friend’s bar or bat mitzvah, the kids haven’t attended a religious service since.

For geographical reference, we live in Bergen County, New Jersey, minutes from Manhattan. The school district that my kids attend is comprised of families from middle-class to wealthy socio-economic status. About thirty-five percent of the students are Asian (primarily Korean but also Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, and Indian). Most students identify as Caucasian, and there are a handful of Latino and African American students. There are enough Jewish families in our district that the schools close on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. My kids have a few classmates who are observant Muslim girls, choosing to wear the hijab. My kids know classmates who label themselves as Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Jains, Hindu, Sikh, Protestant Christians (primarily progressive), and non-religious.

My son was born in 2002 and is sixteen years old. I asked him what his thoughts were about religion. His response: “Honestly, I don’t think about it much. I don’t need religion or want it, I don’t have an interest in finding out more about it, and I can’t see how my life would be improved by it. I don’t believe in any gods. I don’t remember attending church when I was little, and I remember we attended some funerals and my friend’s bar mitzvah service. If you want to be a Muslim, or a Christian, or a Catholic, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist, you go for it and do you. Do it on your own terms, but I don’t need to be involved in it.” I asked him if people have asked him what his religion was, and he said yes. His response is, “We aren’t doing religion right now,” and he said they don’t ask him more about it. I asked him if he thought people tried to force their religion into politics, or if he thought they should or shouldn’t. He said, “I think some people try to force their religion on others because they can’t help it. They believe a certain way and they think other people should follow their ideas. They don’t understand what separation of church and state means even though we learn it in history class. They are so wrapped up in what they think is right and wrong that they try to get others to do things their way too.” I asked him if his friends practice religion regularly, and he said it varies. One friend’s family is devoutly Catholic and won’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent, but that doesn’t stop my son from ordering the most meat-laden meal at Taco Bell in front of his friend. As my son said, “His religious food rules are his issue, not mine.”

My eighteen-year-old daughter is taking an English course called World Mythology and Archetypes in Literature. I didn’t realize how little my kids knew about religious stories until one night my daughter said, “I just don’t get the point of Jesus. I mean, he’s dead, so what’s the big deal about him? I said so in class today, and several people agreed with me.” (I nearly fell out of my chair). I informed her that many Christians believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and now lives in heaven. She said, “Seriously? People actually believe that? I thought they knew that was just a story. So for the sake of argument, what does Jesus do now?” I told her that people pray to him for things – healing, to find a close parking spot, to get an A on a test. She said, “So if they’re praying to Jesus what is God doing? I thought people prayed to God.” I told her that some Christian sects believe in the trinity, that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all God but separate too. She said, “That makes no sense. Is that like the three branches of government?” Another day she said, “Who is the dude who made everything bleed and then the frogs and flies came?” I almost choked on my tea at this description of Moses.

Bible stories do sound so ridiculous when explained from scratch to an unfamiliar audience. This is why religions work hard to indoctrinate and capture the four- to fourteen-year-old demographic. It is well known within the educational community that children’s critical analytical thinking skills and ability to understand abstract concepts are not developed until they reach their early teen years. That is why algebra is typically not taught before that age range, as children’s thought processes aren’t adequately developed. Therefore, it makes complete sense to indoctrinate children with religious concepts before they can analyze the concepts and make well-thought-out decisions.

But as Millennials, who are dropping out of religion, age and have children and do not introduce their children to religion, it is unlikely that those children will participate in religion. Proselytizing is not the most effective way to gain new religious members. Sure, religious groups may pick up a few new members in times of disaster (remember the increase in religious participation after 9/11) or through help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, but by and large people aren’t knocking on church doors asking to be let in. And I doubt that all those Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons who go around knocking on doors pick up very many members either.

Historically, people would remain throughout their lifetimes in the religion in which they were indoctrinated. I always thought that Catholicism was particularly brilliant with their concept of sacraments. The Church basically “owned” a person from cradle to grave. For centuries, the Catholic Church was the center of all village life, and it even controlled government. For one to be in good standing with the church, and thus in good standing with government, one needed to complete one’s sacraments and give money to the church. Whether one believed or not — and who knows, as most peasants were illiterate and masses were conducted in Latin — one was tied in to the community. But as things changed with the Reformation, with colonization of The New World, with the expansion of travel and technology, the church’s central role is rapidly diminishing in first world areas. The world in which my Generation Z children live is vastly different from the one my Baby Boomer parents inhabited. Very few of my Millennial family members and coworkers are raising their children in religion. Does that mean that religion is dying? One can hope . . .

On a side note, my kids don’t identify themselves as atheists. They just say they aren’t religious, or that they don’t practice a religion. My husband and I identify as agnostic atheists. While my children are atheists, they do not feel the need to label themselves as such. I don’t know if the difference is that my husband and I had a religious label at one point and feel the need to definitively differentiate ourselves from religion whereas our kids do not feel that need. What are your thoughts?

Bruce Gerencser