As an atheist, I have frequently had religious acquaintances and even family members misunderstand the basis for my lack of faith. So when Larry Alex Taunton, a Christian who has debated nonbelief with celebrity New Atheists Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, recently wrote about his conversations with college-aged apostates, emerging with several conclusions about why these young people are leaving the church, I was interested.
Taunton and his organization wanted to understand how young men and women become avowed nonbelievers, and they contacted a number of campus secular groups to ask if their members would share their stories. Their respondents were mostly ex-Christians who had left the church during high school. Though Taunton acknowledges that most young atheists he has met in his career start out by "attribut[ing] the decision to the purely rational and objective," he highlights several other themes drawn from further discussion with the respondents: they found their church's "mission and message … vague"; "they felt their church offered superficial answers to life's difficult questions"; they respected ministers of genuine belief; their "decision to embrace belief was often an emotional one"; and the Internet was a factor in their journey to nonbelief. Taunton concludes by suggesting churches not shy away from being serious about belief and the Bible. In sum, according to Taunton, it would seem that the atheists to whom he spoke mostly suffered from personal disappointments with the church, rather than from disagreement with Christian dogma or religion as a whole.
Taunton's are deeply problematic findings. Because what this kind of analysis does, whether intentionally or not, is peremptorily dismiss these atheists' valid objections and present snippets from the interviews in such a way as to insult the sincerity of their nonbelief and foreclose other possible explanations for their apostasy; namely, that Christianity may be losing its grip over increasing numbers of young Americans not because its preachers and pastors are doing a shoddy job of delivering their message or listening to their flock, but because the young Americans find the religion itself to be inherently implausible or morally objectionable.
Written By: Jeffrey Taylercontinue to source article at theatlantic.com