Why some college kids chose atheism

Photo credit www.collegescholarships.org

Larry Alex Taunton and his Christian foundation did a study of college students who are committed atheists, asking them why they chose atheism. What they learned is interesting. Excerpt from his Atlantic piece:

  • They had attended church

Most of our participants had not chosen their worldview from ideologically neutral positions at all, but in reaction to Christianity. Not Islam. Not Buddhism. Christianity.

  • The mission and message of their churches was vague

These students heard plenty of messages encouraging “social justice,” community involvement, and “being good,” but they seldom saw the relationship between that message, Jesus Christ, and the Bible.

  • They felt their churches offered superficial answers to life’s difficult questions

When our participants were asked what they found unconvincing about the Christian faith, they spoke of evolution vs. creation, sexuality, the reliability of the biblical text, Jesus as the only way, etc. Some had gone to church hoping to find answers to these questions. Others hoped to find answers to questions of personal significance, purpose, and ethics. Serious-minded, they often concluded that church services were largely shallow, harmless, and ultimately irrelevant.

  • They expressed their respect for those ministers who took the Bible seriously

There’s more, including the discovery that the high school years were decisive for these young atheists, in determining their religious (irreligious, I mean) path.

“Shallow, harmless, and ultimately irrelevant” — as a description of what I thought of church during my teenage years, does that ever strike a resonant chord within me. It was only when I got to college and understood that Christianity was so much more than I had ever imagined — that it could captivate the minds and gain the allegiance of men like Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton, Dostoevsky, the designers of Chartres cathedral, and so on — that I began to take it seriously. Kierkegaard in particular revealed to me why I had no use for Christianity as I understood it till then: I thought being a Christian was a feature of being a good middle-class American, and nothing more. If that’s all it is, then, to borrow a phrase from Flannery O’Connor, to hell with it.

I can understand why a bright college student would find atheism more compelling than Christianity, if that’s the only kind of Christianity he had seen. In the Netherlands last week, a friend of mine, not a Christian, said that the Church had to liberalize if it was going to hold on to young people. (He meant on sexual teaching.) I told him that it would seem that way, but that’s actually not true. Social science data show that the churches that have liberalized have no more luck holding on to young people than those who remain more or less traditionalist. When young people become more liberal in their views, they don’t seek out more liberal churches, which are available to them, but quit going to church at all. This makes intuitive sense to me. If church makes no serious demands on you, and you can pick and choose what you want to believe of the tradition to suit your preferences, then the religion will have no particular hold on you. Put another way, if church is only about teaching you how to be good, as distinct from teaching you how to be holy, then its appeal is significantly diminished, or so it seems to me.

Click here to read article in its entirety – http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/why-they-left-god/

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