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Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Christianity is not going anywhere in the near future. It is intimately tied to the history and government of America. Even today, a prayer opens every congressional session. Messages invoking God still grace almost every single legal tender in the United States. "In God We Trust" remains the official U.S. national motto.

As far as I am aware, there is no leftist agenda that plans to kill Christianity. Even if there were, there is no way that they could possibly succeed.

However that doesn't mean there isn't a threat to Christianity. Newspapers and op-ed writers have noted that more and more members of the younger generations are turning away from Christianity. As a college student, I can tell you that from personal experience, this is true. The statistics are correct. Fewer college students are going to church, and more are moving towards secularization.

This trend, however, is not the result of leftist agenda. It's the result of the conservative agenda.

I go to church whenever I can. I believe that Christian institutions have the ability to do great good in the world. However, it's becoming harder and harder to watch the news and stand behind what I believe in at the same time.

I don't ascribe to many of mainstream Christianity's doctrines and beliefs, such as taking the Bible at its word or believing that Christianity is the only true religion. But even without imposing my own beliefs on the argument, Christianity is not going to disappear just because of modernization or science. Scientists who defend evolution do not invalidate the religion. Christianity is much more than the three passages that start Genesis. Just as Christianity didn't disappear when the world abandoned the idea that the sun revolved around the earth, neither is it in crisis just because evolution is real.

Similarly, homosexuality is not hedonism. It never was and it never will be. It is a biological characteristic, just like having black hair, and we need to accept it. Historical evidence suggests that homosexuality existed and was even quite prominent at the time when Jesus of Nazareth was alive. Plato and Socrates both debated and wrote treatise concerning the virtues of homosexuality openly in the 4th century Before Christ.

I don't like to use the Bible to argue my points, because I think the Bible is flawed. But even in the Bible, Jesus of Nazareth never fully addressed homosexuality. People were homosexual and it didn't make them any less human in the eyes of Jesus of Nazareth. Just as marriage between two people with black hair is legal, so should that between two people who love each other, regardless of their respective genders.

Yet what should have been common sense, and a natural transition towards modernization, has become a farce played out on national television. Sometimes I wonder if some of the things I read or see are actually true or just one big joke.

The Church of England earlier last week denounced gay marriage. North Carolina in May passed its first state constitutional amendment, just to ban civil unions, and other states have or are doing the same. South Korea just passed a bill to pull material about evolution out of high school textbooks, just as Tennessee passed a law to allow teachers to teach alternative and often nonscientific theories. People still believe that the theory of evolution is not real (it's as real as the theory of gravity).

And then there are the "Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rallies" emerging all over the country. Religious freedom is not being attacked. If anyone's freedom is being oppressed, it's that of anyone who is not Christian.

If Christianity is a victim, it's a victim from its supposed savior, conservatism. Not everyone who is Christian denounces evolution and equal rights, but to the world, it certainly looks that way.

Young people are turning away from Christianity not because the left is out to get the right, but because of the right's lack of willingness to compromise and listen to the other side.

I make it a rule to try to see both sides of the story before forming my judgment, and I keep on trying to make excuses for the religious right. But my excuses are running out. And soon, so will people who believe in Christianity.

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Do you agree with the author?  The statistics do show that more young people are turning away from religion.  Do you think it's because of inflexibility in a world that, as we learn more, demands more tolerance?

Answer Question

Asked by jsbenkert at 11:31 AM on Jun. 20, 2012 in Religious Debate

Level 37 (89,331 Credits)
Answers (39)
  • – collapse
    No, I don't. Most young people leave the church when they go off to college. It's all part of the process. When these people start raising families they come back to church.
    The beauty of the church and the security in that beauty is that it sticks to it's tenets (the Catholic church anyway) The teachings don't change, doctrine doesn't change with every passing fad. People know that they can count on a consistent message. It wouldn't mean much if the church changed it's doctrine to match popular opinion.
    The assertion that Christians believe that homosexuals are less than anyone else, is flawed and erroneous.

    Answer by adnilm at 11:41 AM on Jun. 20, 2012 (hidden) + expand

  • There is a statistical trend that mainline Christian denominations are seeing a drop in numbers while other sects are seeing an increase.

    Regarding the author's thoughts - I remember being one the only college students in my dorm that got up on a Sunday and went to church. The others, even those that were from a religiously active family, took the morning to sleep in. I was the only freshman in my dorm to go because none of us had cars and I was the only one willing to walk the 2 miles (each way) to church and/or to ask for a ride from a congregant. Yet today in their late 30s/early 40s, the majority of my friends from college do attend some sort of religious service on a regular basis. Some of them found a new religious home. others returned to their roots. I don't think young people falling away and re-evaluating is new. I think it's new for this author.

    Answer by ldmrmom at 11:43 AM on Jun. 20, 2012

  • I think that's politicizing it far more than it really is. Yes, there is a political aspect that screws up a lot of things, but I don't think college kids are giving up the faith that's been drilled into them for 18 years because of politics as soon as they are living under their own roof. The other flaw is the author suffers from that special brand of blindness where everyone is either Christian or atheist, and all the other thousands of choices don't exist.

    Because of the preponderance of Christians in the country, our control group is inherently flawed, but it would be interesting to see real comprehensive numbers - how many Hindu and Wiccan kids grow up to be atheists? How many that leave Christianity are simply converting to a different faith instead of giving it up altogether?

    Answer by NotPanicking at 11:45 AM on Jun. 20, 2012

  • Do you think it's because of inflexibility in a world that, as we learn more, demands more tolerance?--

    its possibly because tolerance is the word we all speak now, whereas in our parents generation (or even some CMers), it wasn't an everyday household least not in the context of today. anytime the trend is compromise/tolerance, it will become the norm..and once something is at 'normal' status, what once was, is no longer. kwim? so, if that's where 'inflexibility' comes into play as the reason for young people (or anyone for that matter, but for the sake of the post..yp's have grown up in a 'tolerance world'..where olders have not) leaving a the larger religion that embraces conservatism, then yeah.

    (hope you understood what i meant to say.)

    Answer by dullscissors at 11:48 AM on Jun. 20, 2012

  • jsbenkert

    Comment by jsbenkert (original poster) at 11:52 AM on Jun. 20, 2012

  • >Do you think it's because of inflexibility in a world that, as we learn more, demands more tolerance?<

    This may sum up one grouping of congregations under the umbrella. Take homosexuality, for example. There are the congregations (and their denominations) that condemn. We've seen them quoted often. There are those that are a bit less filled with vitriol but are still not as accepting. There are those that recognize the human being and the right to live and love as you wish but do not support ordination of gay clergy and then there are those that will marry (where legal) and ordain regardless of sexuality. My problem with things like this article is that it treats Christianity as one lock-step group. . . and it's not. That's like saying "all women" or "all Americans." There are varying view points within a single congregation, let alone denominational differences.

    Answer by ldmrmom at 12:02 PM on Jun. 20, 2012

  • I don't think this is "new", or at least not new as in the last 25 or 30 yrs. I was exposed to different religions growing up, though I stopped attending church around 12 yrs old. I was not told I had to go, it was always optional for me. And, I was a self-proclaimed Atheist in college. So, were a lot of my friends. And, even the ones who were "believers" rarely attended church. I mean let's face it, Sundays are for sleeping in/off hangovers in college. My university even had religious "houses"/meeting places on campus. But, the only one that really had members was the Jewish house & that was due to more of the social/cultural aspect than a religious one. For example, I knew Jewish Agnostics who hung out there.

    Answer by 3libras at 12:08 PM on Jun. 20, 2012

  • the last statistics i saw on this said that when ppl who were raised Christian go back to the faith (around the age they start having kids) they arent going Catholic, Baptist, or any other large denom...they are going non-denominational. i went to a Christian college and there was a church not 5 mins off campus and very few went...but the majority do go to church now. but then Oklahoma is very much a Christian area.

    im currently apart of the "going back to church since college" crowd and the majority of my friends arent going back to the churches they were raised in...they are flocking in large groups to the 3-4 churches in the area that are more entertainment centers that dont focus or look down on homosexuality. they are realizing that one can have the security and community of a religion without the legality and without taking the Bible literally. even the church we sometimes attend is the most liberal one we could find.

    Answer by okmanders at 12:45 PM on Jun. 20, 2012

  • I don't know if it really is accurate to say that....but living here in the bible belt-church is a necessasity of life. I wonder how many kids forced to go every sunday truly grasp onto that faith. Or eventually break free for real and discover their own hearts true spiritual path?

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 12:51 PM on Jun. 20, 2012

  • I think there's a lot more at play. The dynamics of the American family have greatly changed over the past 3-4 decades. Divorce, single parents, working moms... it's not so easy to get the whole family to church every Sunday when kids are being shuffled back and forth and most chain retail stores are open. Part of religion's stickiness is repeat behavior and tradition. Christian holidays have become so commercialized, you don't have to be a believer to celebrate.

    On top of this, religion is battling the internet and mass media. People are much more vocal about their beliefs, so young people are being exposed to atheism as well as various other religions at an earlier age than college. More women, who traditionally are more religious than men, are going to college.

    Christianity won't die out any time soon. Small non-denoms are figuring out how to adjust. Big churches will eventually have to follow or keep losing its young.

    Answer by anng.atlanta at 1:06 PM on Jun. 20, 2012

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