Number of atheists growing!
Number of believers/church-goers shrinking!
The Snake gave it to me!
In my experience, some people gleefully point out the decline in church affiliation, and smirk at problems in The Church, as confirmation of their lack of attendance or outright unbelief. To be sure, there are those who go to church that provide plenty of ammunition.
There is indeed A LOT WRONG with “The” Church and church people. But facts is facts! The number of people going to church has been on the rise for the past century in America, and only recently leveled off. (Most Americans were unaffiliated with churches in the 17th and 18th centuries.)
And even as “unaffiliated” grows among younger people, various Pew/Gallup/Barna surveys all agree on this: spirituality is not dead. More young people view themselves as spiritual seekers than ever before. Problem is… they just don’t want to seek it in the institutional or traditional Church. (Not-so coincidentally, belief in institutions has also been in decline. Thank you Congress.) And I agree with many of them and the growing number of atheists: there’s a lot not to like about some churches and their teachings.
Any decline, however, becomes significant with time.
And the current version of Christianity in America shows signs of being like the house built on sand that Jesus once taught about. Decades of judgmental theology, hypocrisy, scandals, and boring worship services have taken their toll. (Not to mention the perpetuation of music from a different century, holy language that comes across as in-authentic, …etc etc. etc. But I digress.)
The thing is, Jesus faced these same issues. Human beings are good at turning movements into bureaucracies, and faith as a relationship into a set of statutes.
Many atheists want the same thing that God wants: love, forgiveness, and justice. Christians simply believe that humans can’t achieve these things on their own.
Atheists point to bloody history for evidence of what’s wrong with religion.
Christians point to history, including their own, for evidence of what’s wrong with human beings.
2017 Update: Barna Research recently published some new survey data indicating that a lot of people who no longer go to church still “love Jesus,” and try to follow his teachings. They simply don’t want to do it through organized religion anymore. Many of these “Un-Churched Jesus Lovers” also have a scientific view of the world.
In a recent sermon at the church we attend, the pastor clearly stated would could be construed as an pro-historical understanding of Adam and Eve. If left us questioning whether or not we were in the right place.
Tippy-toe, tippy-toe go the pastors and preachers.