Why do Christians sometimes abandon the faith and turn to atheism?
A Christian foundation wondered the same thing, so it arranged to sit down and listen to college students who had made exactly that journey and hear their stories.
As the head of the foundation writes in this intriguing piece, "these students were, above all else, idealists who longed for authenticity, and having failed to find it in their churches, they settled for a non-belief that, while less grand in its promises, felt more genuine and attainable."
The author acknowledges that this trip from belief to unbelief has engaged him for a long time, and partly because as a Christian he thinks atheism makes no sense and carries with it potential harm. He writes: "Atheists particularly fascinate me. Perhaps it's because I consider their philosophy -- if the absence of belief may be called a philosophy -- historically naive and potentially dangerous."
In the end, what he and his foundation found was that former Christian youth who rejected the church were turned off by (among others) pastors who didn't take the Bible seriously and others who would not defend their beliefs or who knew so little about them that they could not articulate them reasonably.
One approach to the faith they may have run into or even been taught is described by scholar Kenda Creasy Dean in her book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teen-agers is Telling the American Church. She accuses the church of offering young people "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" instead of Christianity. The book is well worth a read as is the piece above to which I've linked you.
Indeed, if you're a member of a Christian congregation with a youth ministry, I suggest you pass this blog on to whoever leads that.
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WHERE AMERICAN MUSLIMS LIVE
Which states in the U.S. have the most Muslims? I was wrong in my guess that Michigan would be among them. But I defend my guess because Michigan is a populous state and Dearborn has a high concentration of Muslims. For the real answer, click here.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.