Is Broader Evangelicalism to Blame for the Rise in Atheism?
Let me preface this article with saying: I cannot stand it when people make arguments, or stereotypes, based on their own experience. The “I know a guy who died from that and we should boycott that thing” – type of argument. I admit that part of my argument comes from my own experience here.
I know a guy who, as a young person, was once involved in many aspects of his local evangelical church, he played guitar and sang on the worship team, wrote worship songs, was very active in the youth group, participated in outreach, and then something happened…he just stopped.
He stopped going to Church.
Now he is a self proclaimed atheist.
He has become a purveyor of social media liberalism, espousing the doctrine of Dawkins, Nye, and George Takei. He has become a believer in the falsehood that truth is arbitrary, and that individualism is the way to go. Everything is good and permissible if no one gets hurt seems to be his mantra.
I have pried into why he left the church and has such a hate on for God. I could not understand how someone so involved in the life of his congregation could just turn around and hate God and say he does not exist. Have you ever wondered why atheists, especially the vocal ones, have such a hatred for what they say does not exist? If God does not exist, why bother trying to prove it? And why be so hateful about it?
When I question my friend, often he will regale me with philosophical or scientific reasons that he pulled off of the latest Youtube video or Reddit forum, but ultimately it seems to come down to him being hurt by those closest to him in the Church. Suffice it to say, grievous sin was exposed among the leadership of the church, and the congregation began to crumble under the weight of it. As the the drama unfolded, the church seemingly “fell off the rails,” in every sense of the phrase. So much so that at one point a couple years later the church began only having worship services once a month. Now, to be fair, I have no idea what the preaching was like, or what the teaching was like, and whether or not there was discipline, and we should not speculate, but this once thriving church of 1000 members, dwindled to a fraction of its membership. Being in a youth leader position, he watched everything fall apart, however he was long gone before the collapse. Hurt, alone, and angry he turned his back on God and became an atheist.
As I prodded farther into his mind, I asked, “What exactly is it that you stopped believing in?” When he responded, “God,” I asked him to elaborate. I wanted to know what it was that he believed about God before he stopped believing in him.
His responses revealed that he had only a faint idea who God is as he has revealed himself in the Bible. He understood that God created everything, and that Jesus died for his sins, but he could not articulate why Jesus dying was necessary. When queried about original sin, he did not have a clue what I was talking about, he said that he thought the Bible taught that people are born basically good. Essentially there was no firm foundation for his faith. There was no real object to the faith he claimed when he was a teenager, oh it was Jesus, but he did not know much about Jesus. Sadly, it seems that my 8 year old has a better grasp of sin and redemption and grace than he did at 17 or 18 as a youth leader. He did not have much knowledge of the historical account of creation, fall and redemption, of the covenants, what sin really was or death or suffering. And on and on. The faith he had prior to his atheism was experiential and spurious at best.
So when prodded further, he said he could not believe in a God whose followers (those leaders of his congregation) would be so two faced. The church is full of hypocrites, so it must be false.
And who can blame him really?
When your mentors are fallible, and they fall into sin, and your foundation is built on those people instead of the firm foundation of the gospel you can see how one would easily fall away. When church is nothing more than a social club, and God is an abstract doctrine at best, and the gospel is a just a religious moralism, it is easy to walk away.
I tell you one thing. I do not envy the pastor come judgement day. I would not want to be the one to have to give an account for the souls I was shepherding in this situation.
My friend’s answers were revealing. Not about him and his faith so much but about his church and broader evangelicalism. David Murray, over at Head Heart Hand, wrote a telling article about why people become atheists, and I concur with the results of this survey based on the experience with my friend. He lists 7 things that most atheists have in common.
1. They had attended church: Most of them had a church background and had chosen atheism in reaction to Christianity.
2. The mission and message of their churches was vague: While there were many messages about doing good in the community, “they seldom saw the relationship between that message, Jesus Christ, and the Bible.”
3. They felt their churches offered superficial answers to life’s difficult questions: Churches did not address questions like creation v evolution, sexuality, reliability of the Bible, purpose of life, etc. Messages were bland, shallow, irrelevant, and boring.
4. They expressed their respect for those ministers who took the Bible seriously: This is summed up in one student’s response: ”I really can’t consider a Christian a good, moral person if he isn’t trying to convert me.”
5. Ages 14-17 were decisive: Most embraced unbelief in the high school years.
6. The decision to embrace unbelief was often an emotional one:Although all gave rational reasons for becoming atheists, for most there were powerful emotional reasons too – usually associated with suffering.
7. The internet factored heavily into their conversion to atheism: Instead of being “converted” through the popular New Atheists, most were influenced by Youtube videos and website forums.
Read the full article here: What Led You To Become an Atheist?
Over at Ligonier they performed a survey of what people believed in America. The stats are disappointing to say the least. Take a look at the info-graphic below. Look at the % of evangelical Christians in each of the issues, that says something about the state of the evangelical church today. I believe that the broader evangelical Church today is sorely lacking in the basics of our faith. People in the Church are not equipped to handle life when hard times come, when setbacks happen, when the people you look up to fail. The church needs to get back to the Bible. So I wonder if broader evangelicalism is breeding atheists. Satan surely loves the fluffy gospel of broad evangelicalism, especially when it turns people against God. Thoughts?