Biola University (evangelical Christian institution):
Losses. The data show that compared to the 1970s, evangelicals now have two to three times the loss rate among young adults raised in their churches. Over the past 30 years, American Christianity has experienced substantial decline, especially, but not exclusively, among younger Americans. Those born after 1980 (millennials) are one- third less likely than their grandparents to be evangelical Christians.
The role of intellectual doubts. Research by the NGP and Barna Group have identified “doubts” as one of the primary reasons that millennials raised as Christians disconnect from Christianity. David Kinnaman has concluded that “unexpressed doubt is one of the most powerful destroyers of faith.” In three independent studies, NGP researchers found that doubts were associated with greater risk of leaving Christianity and with poorer spiritual health. Those with more doubts felt distant from God, prayed less frequently and attended church less frequently. The impact of doubts fully accounted for the higher drift- away rates among younger Americans, and doubt had a stronger impact on overall spiritual health than any other of several hundred factors examined.
To read the entire article, click here.
Gary: Doubt has always been a problem for Christianity. Remember “doubting Thomas”? So why after 2,000 years is doubt now such a major issue? Why are young people leaving “the fold” in such record numbers? I believe that the answer can be summed up in two words: the Internet.
Never before has so much information been so readily accessible to the average person as today. With the click of a mouse one can look at the pro and con arguments for any issue…including the arguments supporting your supernatural belief system (religion). In the past, if someone wanted to check out the criticisms of one’s religion, you had to go to a lot of effort to find them. You would need to go to a library or bookstore. You would need to do a search in the card catalog for publications discussing the issue of religious skepticism, atheism, or other such topics. If you lived in a small or medium-sized town, you might have had to have gone to a special library in a larger city or ordered books by mail to obtain this information. The entire process would have taken weeks or even months. Therefore, you would have had to have been really curious and really determined to access this information. Today the same information is available to you in literally seconds while sitting at your breakfast table sipping your morning coffee.
Think about it: One third of all young evangelicals are leaving Christianity. If that trend continues in subsequent generations, how many evangelical Christians will be left in the United States in 100 years??? And notice the advice given for how Christian pastors, parents, and educators should address this problem: Expose young people to Christian apologetics. But are Christian young people encouraged to read both the pro and the con arguments for their religious beliefs? Nothing in this article explicitly gives that advice. But isn’t that the advice most educated American parents would give to their children regarding any other issue in life?
“Research the issue, Son/Daughter. Study the arguments both in favor and against the issue. Be informed. Then, once you have evaluated both sides of the argument, make an informed decision on where you stand.”
Sadly, most Christian pastors, parents and educators do not encourage their young people to study, in depth, the arguments of “the other side”. If keeping their young people in the Church at all costs is their goal, then maybe this is the correct strategy. But I believe that it is still a losing strategy. Sooner or later, most young people are going to “google” some issue related to their religious beliefs. And speaking from experience, that one internet search could be the beginning of the end of his or her “faith”.
I say: EVERYONE should study the evidence for supernatural claims, in particular the supernatural claims of religion, pro and con, and let the chips fall where they may!