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Tag: Nones

No Matter How You “Spin” the Numbers, American Christian Church in Trouble

rise of the nones

The Pew Research Center released a report today that shows that American Christian churches continue to face member indifference and attendance loss:

Perhaps the most striking trend in American religion in recent years has been the growing percentage of adults who do not identify with a religious group. And the vast majority of these religious “nones” (78%) say they were raised as a member of a particular religion before shedding their religious identity in adulthood.

As part of a new survey connected to our broader Religious Landscape Study, we asked these people to explain, in their own words, why they no longer identify with a religious group. This resulted in hundreds of different responses (after all, everyone’s religious experience is a bit different), but many of them shared one of a few common themes.

About half of current religious “nones” who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God.

But there are other reasons people give for leaving behind their childhood religion. One-in-five express an opposition to organized religion in general. This share includes some who do not like the hierarchical nature of religious groups, several people who think religion is too much like a business and others who mention clergy sexual abuse scandals as reasons for their stance.

One-in-ten religious “nones” who say they were raised with a religious affiliation are now classified as “inactive” religiously. These people may hold certain religious beliefs, but they are not currently taking part in religious practices. And most of them simply say they don’t go to church or engage in other religious rituals, while others say they are too busy for religion.

Religious “nones” are by no means monolithic. They can be broken down into three broad subgroups: self-identified atheists, those who call themselves agnostic and people who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” Given these different outlooks, it is not surprising that there are major gaps among these three groups when it comes to why they left their childhood religion behind. An overwhelming majority of atheists who were raised in a religion (82%) say they simply do not believe, but this is true of a smaller share of agnostics (63%) and only 37% of those in the “nothing in particular” category.

What do you think American Christianity will look like in 2030? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

why people stop believing

reasons why people are unaffiliated

 

Atheism in Arizona

arizona

My good friend, former Evangelical pastor Jim Schoch, sent me a link today to an article about atheism in Arizona. According to azfamily.com:

It’s a long-honored tradition at the Arizona state Capitol. Lawmakers pray every day at the start of the session.

“The country was founded on certain Christian beliefs,” Sen. Steve Smith said.” We have people give Jewish prayers, Mormon prayers, Christian prayers, Catholic prayers, all kinds of prayers.”

But if you don’t identify with a particular religion, you can no longer be a part of that opening prayer.

“I find myself not being able to give a prayer,” Rep. Juan Mendez, a self-proclaimed atheist, said.

In 2013, all lawmakers took turns giving the prayer. When it was Mendez’ turn, he didn’t want to do it.

“I actually tried to not do the prayer. I avoided it,” he recalled. “They essentially made me give a prayer. So, I scrambled to even understand what it would mean for me, and it took me awhile.”

….

Mendez gave the invocation again in 2014, and he wanted to get on the calendar this year, the same day the Secular Coalition for Arizona would be at the Capitol.

Mendez was denied this time around because he “doesn’t invoke a higher power,” part of the new rules just put into place by House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro.

….

“It’s frankly disgusting,” Arizona State University Professor Lawrence Krauss, a well-known atheist, said. “How can something that is respectful be insulting?

“We are allowed to treat someone with total disrespect because they lack faith, that we would never do to someone who claimed to be religious,” he continued.

Why?

According to Krauss, a world-renowned theoretical physicist and best-selling author, some people equate no beliefs with no values.

“[Some have] the idea that somehow if you question the existence of God, you’re a bad person, that the only way to be moral is to believe in God,” Krauss said.

….

Krauss says atheists are seen as “more negative than no experience, financial impropriety, adultery or in this case, even being a Muslim. Somehow, atheism is associated with evil.

He says people are afraid of anything that threatens their faith and that asking questions will confront it.

“It’s kind of amazing, religion has captured the market on morality,” he said.

Krauss has a theory.

“Obviously, if you look at the First World, I think it’s education,” he explained. “As the populace becomes more educated, their willingness to believe myths decreases, and their willingness to openly ask questions increases.”

….

Numbers show nonbelievers account for about 23 percent of Americans, yet Mendez is the only admitted atheist in the Arizona Legislature.

“You can be good without necessarily having a god,” Mendez said. “I’m here to do positive, good work.”

Mendez said his constituents don’t have a problem with his lack of faith. His only challenges seem to come from his colleagues at the Capitol.

He points out that more often than not, the prayer is usually the same call to action referencing the same couple of names from the same religion.

“To where it really normalizes it and makes it sound like we all have one religion down here,” Mendez said.

“We haven’t been able to find a proper and nondiscriminatory way to have people participate in the prayer, and now it’s going to be something that much more divides us,” he said.

You can read the entire article here. By the way, in 2008, seventeen percent of Arizonans were NONES. 2014? Twenty seven percent.

NONES by State. 2014 Pew Research Landscape Study

nones by state 2014 pew research

 

What Part Did the Internet Play in Your Loss of Faith?

porn leads to loss of faithI am of the opinion that the advent of the internet is hastening America’s march towards secularism and unbelief. Prior to Al Gore inventing the internet, knowledge was controlled by academic institutions, libraries, churches, and mainstream media outlets. Today, Americans are exposed to dizzying amount of data. Thanks to Google, known as GOD at our house, the answers to every question are but a search away.

Before the internet, Evangelicals relied on their pastors and Sunday school teachers to tell them the “truth” about God, Jesus, church history, and the Bible. Questions and doubts were taken to pastors for resolution. These men of God were expected to speak authoritatively and put church members’ doubts to rest. Doubt is a tool used by Satan to rob Christians of their joy, peace, and happiness, countless Evangelical pastors told their congregations. If in doubt, just BELIEVE! The problem, of course, is that most people, Christians included, do have doubts and questions. Now that three-fourths of American homes have broadband internet access, doubting and questioning Evangelicals no longer have to rely on their pastors for answers.

I started blogging in 2007. At the time, I was still a Christian. On the last Sunday of 2008, I attended church for the last time. Filled with questions and doubts that had been percolating for years, I came to the realization that I was no longer a Christian. The internet played a crucial part in my deconversion. It connected me with like-minded people, those with similar doubts, questions, and fears. Thanks to internet (and search engines), hundreds of thousands of people have come to this blog (or one of its previous iterations) seeking answers to their questions and interaction with like-minded people. I have been blessed to meet countless people from the vast corners of the world. I have hundreds of what I call digital friends, people I likely will never meet, but who play an important and helpful part in my life. And I hope that in some small way, telling my story and critiquing Evangelical Christianity has been a help to those who visit this site.

Recently, I stumbled upon a post by Joel Miller. Miller’s blog is hosted by Patheos on the Evangelical channel. In April of 2014, Miller wrote a post titled, Is Internet Porn to Blame for the Rise of the Nones? He later changed the title to How Internet Porn Explains the Decline of American Faith. Miller, who is vice president of acquisitions for Nelson Books at Thomas Nelson, doesn’t think the internet plays an instrumental part in the rapid rise of the NONES, those who self-identify as atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards religion. Instead, Miller blames porn. That’s right. It is not doubts and questions that have caused a loss of faith; it is easy access to internet pornography.

Miller writes:

Since the early 1990s, there has been a significant uptick in Americans abandoning their faith. After crunching the numbers, one researcher says contributing factors such as upbringing and education only explain part of the increase. What about the rest?

After controlling for variables like income, environment, and so on, computer scientist Allen Downey of Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts found 25 percent of the decline can be correlated with Internet access. More Web, less faith.

Why? Here’s Downey’s stab at an answer: “For people living in homogeneous communities, the Internet provides opportunities to find information about people of other religions (and none), and to interact with them personally.” So increased exposure leads to doubt, disagreement, disenchantment, and ultimately to discarding your faith.

….

Disaffiliation should come as no surprise. We’ve already seen that porn makes prayer and beneficial contemplation impossible. Given the Christian understanding of the spiritual life, we’re not capable of simultaneously pursuing our lusts and sanctification. Such a pursuit causes internal dissonance, and the only resolution involves eventually conceding to the pull of one or the other.

….

If the rise of the internet has anything to do with a loss of faith — and it’s an interesting thought — the role of ideas is likely minimal. Arguments don’t cool many hearts, but sin surely does.

While I certainly agree that the internet gives us ready access to a wide array of eroticism and pornography, I seriously doubt that the road out of Christianity is paved with YouPorn videos and JPEGs of naked men and women. Miller, a committed purveyor of endless books that are meant to answer Christian doubts and questions, dares not admit that the real problem is one of knowledge. Doing so would put the blame for the NONES squarely back on Christian sects, churches, and pastors. Doing so would open pastors up to charges of deceit and promoting ignorance. We can’t have that, so those who have exited the Evangelical church stage left and found purpose and meaning elsewhere, are doing so because they are lustful.

Is this your experience too? Are you an unbeliever today due to your insatiable desire for porn? Or did the internet and sites like this one play an instrumental part in your deconversion? Please share your experiences in the comment section. I am certain that Miller is far afield in his assertion about the NONES, and I ask that readers educate him about the real reasons people leave Christianity.

I plan to pin this post to the top of the front page for a few weeks, giving infrequent readers a chance to share their stories.

Bruce Gerencser