In an article in Charisma News (anagrams to “new archaisms.”), Jennifer LeClaire, who is senior editor of that publication, wonders why more and more Christians are jumping ship and turning to atheism. She blames it on the new wave of 16- to 29-year-olds (“O faithless and perverse generation!”) who are more jaded and/or skeptical, and she calls it part of the “Great Falling Away.”
“Jesus said that in the last days, the love of many would grow cold because iniquity will abound,” LeClaire writes.
A little harsh, to imply that young people today are iniquitous, but she does allow that the churches might be a little at fault. She cites a Barna Group study showing that only 16 percent of non-Christians in this age group have a “good impression” of organized Christianity, with 87 percent calling it “judgmental,” 85 percent, “hypocritical,” 78 percent, “old-fashioned,” and 75 percent, “too involved in politics.” No percentages were provided for those who considered it “geeky,” or who don’t want to get up and go to church.
LeClaire is more alarmed by the phenomenon of dyed-in-the-wool Christians turning their backs on God for something else – for what the former Seventh-Day Adventist pastor Ryan Bell called “a closer relationship with reality.” Bell rang in the New Year in 2014 with the resolution to live a godless year, and kept a blog and made a documentary about his transformation. LeClaire, baffled by how a man of God could make such a leap of unfaith, says, “Maybe we should ask heavy metal Christian rock star Tim Lambesis, the former front man for As I Lay Dying. Of course, that may be somewhat difficult considering he was sentenced to six years in prison for hiring a hit man to kill his wife. In the midst of that drama, Lambesis admitted he’s an atheist.”
Maybe the answer is as simple as the fact that there’s no longer the stigma there once was about coming out as an atheist. Whereas formerly the unbeliever had to harbor his doubts in private, atheists are now as vocal (and sometimes as in-your-face) as any religion’s adherents – and as organized, as well. As one letter-writer to the New York Times this Sunday put it: “Communities of non-believers sound a lot like churches.”
That letter was in response to an op-ed piece by T. M. Luhrmann in the Christmas Day edition of the Times, “Religion Without God,” about the proliferation of godless groups embodying quasi-religious rites. Another correspondent rebuked the religionists who “assume that atheists need to fill a void that religion somehow answers,” while speaking up for that rapidly vanishing breed of citizens (myself not included, unhappily to some) who still prefer to keep their opinions to themselves. “This life, this world, the values I hold, “he writes, “are quite sufficient for me.”
That these things are not sufficient for some is pointed out by the same writer. “I respect those that feel differently, but I do wonder why those professing belief need such an external reassurance of their own worth.”
You could wonder the same thing about non-believers.