Seven Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church

Young Adults Quit Church
From time to time I revisit the question: why are young adults walking away from religion? Although the answer(s) vary from person to person, there are some general trends that I think apply in most cases.

In the list below, when I refer to “we,” “I” or “me,” I’m referring to younger adults in general, and not necessarily myself.

We’ve Been Hurt: I can actually include myself in this one personally. Sometimes the hurtful act is specific, like when my youth leader threw a Bible at me for asking the wrong questions. Sometimes it’s rhetorical, either from the pulpit, in a small group study or over a meal. Sometimes it’s physical, taking the form of sexual abuse or the like. But millions claim a wound they can trace back to church that has never healed. Why? In part, because the church rarely seeks forgiveness.

Adult Life/College and Church Don’t Seem to Mix: There are the obvious things, like scheduling activities on Sunday mornings (hint: young people tend to go out on Saturday nights), but there’s more to it. In college, and before that by our parents, we’re taught to explore the world, broaden our horizons, think critically, question everything and figure out who we are as individuals. Though there’s value in this, it’s hyper-individualistic. But Church is more about community. In many ways, it represents, fairly or not, sameness, conformity and a “check your brain at the door” ethos. This stands in opposition to what the world is telling us is important at this time in life.

Perhaps an emphasis on a year of community service after high school would be a natural bridge to ameliorate some of this narcissism we’re building in to ourselves.

There’s No Natural Bridge to Church: Most teenagers leave home, either for college, to travel, work or whatever after high school. With the bad economy, this number is fewer, but it’s a general trend. But the existing model of church still depends on the assumption that communities are relatively static, and that the church is at the center of that community. Not so anymore. When I went to college, I was contacted by fraternities, campus activity groups and credit card companies, but not one church. The only connection I had with religion was the ridiculous guy who (literally) stood on a box with a bullhorn in the union garden and yelled at us about our sinful ways. I could have used support in how to deal with my own finances for the first time. I could have used a built-in network of friends. I would have loved a care package, an invitation for free pizza at the local restaurant or help with my laundry. What I got was the goof with the bullhorn.

We’re Distracted: I shared a video by Diana Butler Bass in a recent post about a priest who took his Ash Wednesday service out onto the street. When people saw him, they reacted as if they had been shaken out of a deep sleep. “It’s Ash Wednesday!” they said with surprise as they asked for the ashes. “Lent is starting!” It simply wasn’t on their radar. It’s not that we don’t care; we have so many things competing for our limited time and attention that the passive things that don’t offer an immediate “interrupt” get relegated to the “later” pile. And we rarely ever get to the “later” pile, which leads me to the next point…

Read More: Four More BIG Reasons Young Adults Quit Church

We’re Skeptical: We’re exposed to more ad impressions in a month today than any other previous generation experienced in a lifetime. I’m sitting in a hotel room writing this, and in this room (which I paid for in part to have privacy), I see more than a dozen marketing messages. If I turn on the TV, they’re there. Pick up my phone, they’re there. Online…you get the point. So whereas generations before us expended energy seeking information out, now it comes at us in such overwhelming volumes that we spend at least the same amount of energy filtering things out. This leads to somewhat of a calcifying of the senses, always assuming that whoever is trying to get your attention wants something, just like everyone else.

We’re Exhausted: I was lumped in as part of the Generation X group, also known as the Slacker Generation. This implied, of course, that we were lazy and unmotivated. But consider how many of us go to college, compared to generations before us. And consider that the baseline standard for family economics requires a two-income revenue stream to live in any level of the middle class. Debt and credit are givens, and working full-time while also trying to maintain a marriage, raise kids, have friends and – God forbid – have some time left for ourselves leaves us with less than nothing. We’re always running a deficit. So when you ask me to set aside more time and more money for church, you’re trying to tap already empty reserves.

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I Don’t Get It: Young adults today are the most un-churched generation in a long time. In many cases, it’s not that we’re walking away from church; we never went in. From what I can tell from the outside, there’s not much relevance to my life in there, and I’m not about to take the risk of walking through the door to find out otherwise.

I’ve tried to offer insight into what might be done about a few of these issues as I went, but I invite you also to sit with the tension of not having the answers. Better yet, seek some young adults out, ask them if they relate to these. And see if they have ideas about what you (maybe not even “church” but you) can do to help relieve some of the challenges.

I think the conversation that follows might pleasantly surprise you.

To read my continuing thoughts on why young adults walk away from, or never engage in, organized religion, read Part Two!


Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004.He is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. Christian published a memoir on faith, family and parenting in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date. Visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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About the Author

Christian Piatt

Christian PiattChristian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004.He is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. Christian has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date. Visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.View all posts by Christian Piatt →

  • Mumcoffice

    What an intriguing and thought provoking article. I appreciate the insight. However, I have a couple other observations as to reasons why the church is losing young people. Besides the ones mentioned, a main reason is that the younger people aren’t really leaving” religion,” they’re leaving “organized religion” primarily because the “organized religion” has become so politicized and secular. Second reason, related to this first reason, these younger people have never truly been connected with Jesus Christ while they’ve been in the church….primarily because the “older” folks in the church are themselves not really connected with JC…..young people don’t want/need another “social” group, what with Facebook, Twitter, etc. and unfortunately, that’s what most churches have become: organized social gatherings masquerading as a church of Jesus Christ. If we want to see why young people are leaving, we need look no further than in the mirrors at ourselves and how we operate as so-called “churches.” God Bless.

    • Mrsutman

      I agree with you…except that the term “organized religion” is redundant.  The very definition of religion requires organization.  What we are lacking is true Christianity which has almost nothing to do with religion. 
      Thanks for the insight!

    • Anonymous

      Secular religion is an oxymoron.  How is organized religion secular in any way?  Your claim doesn’t make sense. 

      You say that people aren’t or never have been “connected” to Jesus Christ.  Can you even explain what that means or is it rhetoric?

  • Drew

    Being a young adult and knowing that you’re not a young adult and writing about young adults, I did not expect much.  However, this is a very good article.  I thought all points were valid.  My only suggestion is that in the “I don’t get it” category you actually have two topics – never having gone to church in the first place and relevancy.  I think relevancy could be it’s own topic.  Is the Church talking about topics that young people care about?  It’s bad enough that politicians throw young people under the the bus because they are not a huge voting block, but many Churches (particularly mainline) don’t do enough to connect with young people.

    • http://twitter.com/LeenaPrindle Leena Prindle

      And then the question that so many churches wanting to reach out and be relevant, ask: “How do we connect? What is does ‘relevant’ look like? what topics DO young people care about?”

      • Drew

        That’s a big topic.  I would point out, however, that while most churches will “say” they want to attract youth, they do not change anything they do to make that a reality.

      • Drew

        That’s a big topic.  I would point out, however, that while most churches will “say” they want to attract youth, they do not change anything they do to make that a reality.

  • Tim

    I would emphasize that much of it is internal core reasons, not external superficial reasons.  For example, a broken sinful heart.  A tendency towards self-centeredness, decreased true community, and cultural distraction (whether that be porn, narcissistic pursuits, or materialism).  Every generation has been “hurt” by the church, some far more than others.  Every generation has had work and financial stressors.  This generation spends hours and hours on the computer, texting, etc.  We all need an awakening of the heart. A taste of true Christ-centered community.

    • http://www.stephenburns.ca/ Stephen

      That’s exactly why young adults leave, Tim. People like you accusing young adults as being narcissistic, so much more than your generation. Please. Evangelicals are short-sighted, and do NOT promote critical thinking. If they did, they wouldn’t be supporting the politicians they have single handedly raised to power. Santorum? Palin? These war mongers and rich promoters are Christians? Do you not think that young adults notice? Of course they do. Look, evangelicalism treats young adult like children because evangelicalism is theology for children. You say things like “it’s their sinfulness” instead addressing REAL needs. They’re leaving, and good for them. I’m a former evangelical youth pastor and it thrills me that the cheap answers they receive in most evangelical services aren’t good enough. We need more Shane Claiborne and Rob Bell and less John “it’s okay to beat you wife” Piper and Mark “what’s wrong with patriarchy?” Driscoll. Most evangelicals won’t see that because they’re more interested in being anti-gay than pro-people. Am I being harsh? Well, certainly the politics would suggest otherwise.

      • Mrsutman

        In practice that all sounds good but in biblical authority, some of the names you support are greatly lacking…as are most of those you deride.
        I think you’re saying that “theology” that comes from somewhere besides the Word is the problem.  If so, I agree.

      • Benjamin

        Please don’t drag politics into this. I don’t think he even mentioned politics in his post.
        He just mentioned the idea of children being self-centered.
        It doesn’t seem to me that you have a problem with identifying certain groups as self-centered if you are willing to criticize “Evangelicals”.

  • Tim C.

    I’m 30.  I grew up in the church, attended off and on through college, and have been a weekly attender as an adult.  Growing up it always seemed that the mark of a true believer was weekly church attendance, but now I don’t think that is really the fullest expression of Christianity.  I feel much more connection to God at my small group bible study than at church service.  

    • Al

           In my opinion, church attendance is primarily a function that fulfills the human need for connectedness with each other. We are social animals and are genetically programmed to follow leaders.
           However, unlike other animals that follow instinct alone, we can think and reason, and make individual choices to not follow the herd. For the most part we live alone or in small family groups, but we seek contact with others at periodic intervals. But what reasons do we have for getting together? And when we do come together, how do we proceed?
           Church attendance fulfills this social need in that it compels people to gather at regular intervals, and the service has a structured flow. Whether the tenets of the faith are true or not is of little importance. It is being with like others for a common purpose that matters.
           But it is hard to feel connected personally when there are too many attendants – one can feel overwhelmed and lonely in the middle of an impersonal crowd. I think this is why you are more comfortable in your “small group bible study” – it affords you a better chance to connect personally. I don’t think it really has anything to do with being more in tune with a deity.
           There are other group functions that serve the same human need for connection that aren’t based on belief in the supernatural.

    • Al

           In my opinion, church attendance is primarily a function that fulfills the human need for connectedness with each other. We are social animals and are genetically programmed to follow leaders.
           However, unlike other animals that follow instinct alone, we can think and reason, and make individual choices to not follow the herd. For the most part we live alone or in small family groups, but we seek contact with others at periodic intervals. But what reasons do we have for getting together? And when we do come together, how do we proceed?
           Church attendance fulfills this social need in that it compels people to gather at regular intervals, and the service has a structured flow. Whether the tenets of the faith are true or not is of little importance. It is being with like others for a common purpose that matters.
           But it is hard to feel connected personally when there are too many attendants – one can feel overwhelmed and lonely in the middle of an impersonal crowd. I think this is why you are more comfortable in your “small group bible study” – it affords you a better chance to connect personally. I don’t think it really has anything to do with being more in tune with a deity.
           There are other group functions that serve the same human need for connection that aren’t based on belief in the supernatural.

      • Tim C.

        Um.  Thanks for the analysis, I guess?  See, I’ve already decided that God is real.  I’m pretty sure that’s where Piatt is coming from too.  

  • http://www.blackmountainlady.com/ Jwmdyck

    I attended church every Sunday all through college and beyond.  The autumn after my graduation, I got married on a Saturday.  On Sunday morning when we awoke in our new home, I suggested that we’d better get ready to go to church.  My bride countered with the idea that we stay in bed and make love.
    I never went to church again.

    • Dementei89

      LOOOOL!

    • Al

      Make love, not war on the unbelievers! Smart wife!

  • Johan

    I miss the point that young adults come to the conclusion that most of the church ritual is just culture and not a divine gathering. I’m in this group. Church thinks to narrow, doesn’t inspire and I consider evangelical theology is short sighted and often just plain wrong.

    • Erik N

       True – Christ said that where 3 or more are gathered, there He will be. Not necessarily “if you gather in a crusty old building with stained glass and geriatric pastors…”

  • Jim W

    My wife and I are 40 years beyond campus life, but in our college years we ended up attending a church where our not-so-small prayer group went.  Our charismatic prayer group provided a ready built community within a warm, welcoming Lutheran church.  Our current Anglican church, and most other local churches, makes little effort to attract or welcome the university and community college students,  And with an anemic evangelistic effort or other activity, there is little to keep them.  Young and energetic believers need more than pew-based events.

  • Scribblinggranny

    I’m 57. Most of it isn’t even relevant to me, but I hang in there, waiting for something. I believe because I believe, not because it’s church. I believe in spite of church, not because of church. But I don’t know how to explain my faith to someone half my age without making their eyes glaze over.

    • Fester60613

      Waiting for what? I’m 59 and instead of going to church I do volunteer work in the community. It’s much more fulfilling than “waiting for something” that’s likely to never arrive.

  • http://rgard99.blogspot.com/ Rgard99

    I believe that the author got it best in making the point that in college he was met with every outreach campaign except that from the church.  Recently, I was expressing some angst to my father about my difficulties in trying to break personal barriers in trying to attend church regularly.  I have five children, three of which are currently in diapers, and a chronically ill wife.  The organizational barriers that I have to hurdle make it much easier to stay at home. 

    I told my father that the church that I attend when I am able to is a small group church, but the problem is that the model of the small group church places all confidence that the small group is a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter solution to fellowship and outreach.  My father admitted that his church too has dropped outreach and visitation ministries. 

  • Witek

    I agree with you just partly. That’s why:
    Young people are sociable. They naturally create groups in which they:
    - support each other.
    - are willing to pray together.
    - talk about important stuff.
    - simply live together.

    Doesn’t it sound church-like? Od do you have to have a pastor, denomination and sunday meetings (esp. sunday morning) to call it a church. How do you define a church?
    We often focus on weird stuff. Like, we say that an organised church is neccesarry, cause then people can get involved (read: attend every sunday) and have a stable foundation (read: loose relationships founded on practicing “churching:).
    Why don’t we realize, that God is where two of us meet?

  • Marilla

    i dont go to church anymore because i read the bible and i didnt like all the horrible things written there, im 21

  • Anonymous

    I think the points made in the article are interesting and a good start at asking the right questions.  But, ultimately, the list of reasons is incomplete.  Not only is church irrelevant, but the whole principle behind the church is not relevant….god.  Belief in god does not provide anything to your average joe.  Find a 30 year old regular church goer, married, with children, stable and secure.  Compare them to another 30 year old, non-church goer, married, with children, stable and secure.  Belief in a god offers nothing different other than a social platform and let’s face it, church no longer holds a monopoly on community social opportunities.  If a nonbeliever can’t see a difference in their life when compared to that of a believer, then what purpose does belief provide?  Fear of damnation or lack of salvation is no longer a valid reason for belief.  There are answers to many things which once seemed mystical.  Denying that as a believer impedes understanding of those who don’t believe.

    There simply is not a way explain to a non-believer why faith offers them anything different than a lack of faith does. If you disagree, then support your claim because I would love to read insights on that idea. I know it’s difficult to try and see the world from a non-believer’s eyes when you are a person of faith, but that’s what needs to happen.  Not only church, but faith, offers nothing to a functional, successful nonbeliever.  If religions rely on the conversion and recruitment of the downtrodden, what are they to do to recruit those who live a happy, fulfilling life?  When you find the answer to that question, then you will find the answer about how to keep young people in church. Realistically, there is no valid answer that I can come up with.  Again, feel free to support a claim that states the contrary.

    Faith is not sufficient because again, it offers nothing unique.  If the church cannot explain to people why god is real, then the church will not last.  There is a massive misconception held by the religious which views a life without belief in a god as unfulfilling or devoid of value.  It’s simply not true.  The faithful and religious have nothing more meaningful about their lives over that of a nonbeliever or a believer of a different faith. 

    When you have figured out a way to convince happy people that they are missing something, church numbers will rise.  But the reality is, religious people are no happier than their nonreligious counterparts.

    • Recusal Obduter

      This post has more merits than the article itself does.  I’d motion for the two to switch places.

    • CP

      I wish I could “like” this comment 10,000 times over. It is spot on!

    • Anonymous

      In my experience, it’s not something I can explain to you…it’s something that happens to you when you encounter God (and encountering God is at God’s initiative).  It’s not intellectual content, but an experience with the divine.  Jesus said that no one could come to him “unless the Father draw him” – God is doing his thing whether or not the church is doing things right or functional, successful nonbelievers expect him.  Church would do better if it would allow for this, instead of always trying to persuade people.  God is already at work: how are we going to respond?  

      • Guest

        Oh yes – and death. Has that been sorted now?
        I was hoping to avoid it by faith in Christ. Is there an easier way? Is it expensive?

        • americanwoman343

          That’s the ‘his thing’ he’s doing – abolishing it for those who come to him in faith. He also gives the faith. Sorry if you didn’t recognize that in there.

    • JR

      I disagree that the problem is beleif in God. I grew up in the church and have always rmeained a Chrisitan through college and beyond, yet I have struggled with church. I love God, I want to serve Him, and so I think it is important to be part of God’s church, yet it is so very hard for me to find a church home where I can feel comfortable and part of a family. I think that our churches are dying, that there is something vital missing from most congregations. It is hard to put my finger onw hat that might be, but for a very long time now church has felt empty. In fact, it feels emptier and more dissatisfying the cloerser I get to God. There is a huge discconent between what God wants the church to be and waht it actually is.

    • Michael Killick

      “Fear of damnation or lack of salvation is no longer a valid reason for belief”

      Was hell cancelled? I missed that

    • Heather

      Religion divorced from intellect is not the same thing as religion itself.

      Many of the comments here argue that there is no rational reason to believe in Christianity, that people can live happy and fulfilled lives without Christ (yes, that is true). But is the point of life to live a happy and fulfilled life? Because if it is, I think in the end most of us are going to fail. Chasing after an ideal of happiness leads to disillusionment, especially within the church. Why? Because life itself isn’t happy. It’s not fair, and attempting to maintain happiness throughout life is pointless. Bad things are always going hit, and hit hard. So yes, I think I can agree that religious people are no happier than those who are non-religious.

      But the point of Christianity is NOT about living happily and fulfilled and having all your problems solved and then going to heaven. Christianity is, in the realest and most important sense, is about sacrifice. And there’s nothing attractive about it in the sense that you mean.

      In part, I think the failure to acknowledge this is what’s driving young people from the church. The emphasis on God is good and will solve all your problems doesn’t match the reality, and it doesn’t challenge anyone to take their faith to an intellectual level, something which, I would argue, does support Christianity.

      • MeganInTheRealWorld

        Heather, I completely agree that one of the biggest issues facing the church today is a disconnect between religion and intellect. However, I disagree that “Christianity is, in the realest and most important sense, about sacrifice”. I think in the most important sense, it’s about learning to be like Christ. Yes, this often means learning to live through times of intense sacrifice. In other times, it means living a life completely surrendered to the Father’s provision, which equals happiness and fulfillment.

        I feel that Christian’s very last point, that “In many cases, it’s not that we’re walking away from church; we never went in” speaks to the disconnect. In my opinion, it’s not that so many go in looking for happiness that they never find, or avoid going in because they don’t want to sacrifice everything, it’s that the foundation of Christ is never fully explained.

        In my experience, I’ve found churches tend to teach one of two extremes. One, they teach that, through God’s power, we will live happy care-free lives of fortune and comfort. This becomes a huge issue when reality sets in and a Christian loses a family member, their job or just has a bad week. Simply asking God “What’s up? You were supposed to fix this!” doesn’t solve their problem, so they leave the church. On the other hand, they’re taught that the entire point is to live in total sacrifice and surrender, but are never really taught how to fully understand Christ’s sacrifice. After a while, they (understandably) get sick of sacrificing their time/money/compassion for a world that ultimately rejects them, so they leave the church.

        It all comes down to Jesus. Had our generation been taught, from the beginning, that a relationship with Jesus will lift the burden of this life and, yes, lead to times of complete contentment and satisfaction through His love, I think more young adults would stay. Had we been taught that loving His children as Jesus does will require putting aside your own will and desires and, yes, lead to times of total sacrifice and humility for the sake of His glory and because He loved us first, I think more young adults would stay.

        Just my two cents.

  • Matt in Memphis

    I agree with most of the points on this list, and I applaud the author for pointing them out. However, I think a major point may have been overlooked. 

    I was raised as a Christian by loving, deeply religious parents, and attended a very pleasant church throughout my childhood and adolescence. I lost my faith in Christianity, and the idea of supernatural revelation in general, not because of any bad experience or emotional reaction or distaste with my religious community, but because I realized that it is actually important to me whether or not my beliefs are true. When I held my own Christian beliefs to the same standard of evidence that I apply to any other claim about moral or objective reality or any other claim to supernatural authority made by all other religions, it became apparent that my faith was a delusion. When I realized that honesty – including intellectual honesty – is a critical moral virtue, it became apparent that the concept of faith – claiming to know things with absolute certainty without adequate evidence- no longer seemed virtuous. Honestly and diligently studying history, science, psychology, mythology, and ethics, may not ever demonstrate that a god of some sort doesn’t exist, but they demonstrate with near certainty that every proposed version of “god” ever proposed by any religion, including Christianity, is man-made. I imagine that many people here in America and around the world are now leaving many different religions for this exact reason.        

    • Anonymous

      Exactly.  Well said.  I come from a similar background.  Nothing negative happened to me at church.  Church provided plenty of friends and good guidance from adults during my time from early childhood all the way up until I moved out for college.  I sang in the youth choir, played church basketball, went on mission trips, vacation Bible school etc.  It was fun (minus the sermons on Sunday) and provided a social forum for me as a kid.  But it is flat out wrong if one believes that this experience was because of some supernatural presence.  It was just a kid playing with his friends.  Nothing more, and easily repeatable in a different, nonreligious setting.

      As an adult, I learned to be honest with myself and not feel guilty about asking reasonable and respectful questions regarding faith.  I even converted to Catholicism due to a really good, young priest that I could talk to honestly.  He was a nice guy, but he had no significant answers to the honest questions.  Again, nothing negative happened. The reality is that there aren’t answers to those valid questions.  “You must have faith,” answers nothing.  Even a superficial evaluation of comparative religion and mythology reveals the truth behind what you are taught to believe as a mainline Christian in America.

      Leaving the church doesn’t have to mean that one abandons the idea of a god…but it’s a logical and important first step in reaching the realization that magic isn’t real.  It never has been.

      • Anonymous

        2000 years worth of Vatican Library documents and you couldn’t find answers to the valid questions?  Fideles et Ratio and all?

        Reason is a huge part of why I have faith- my faith is based on reason and what I know.

        • Anonymous

           I think you mean Fides et Ratio…and no, it offers nothing of substance.  It is a mere attempt to keep the Church relevant despite the reality of contemporary knowledge.  Reason is based upon facts  Faith is based upon the absence of said facts.  A political leader stating the contrary is not only irrelevant but also manipulative…and by political leader I mean the Pope.

          • Anonymous

            True faith is always based on fact.  Only irrational faith is based on the absence of fact.  That was the entire 
            point.  And the office of the See of 
            Peter has NEVER been merely political.  I would say you’re letting your bias reduce the dataset.

          • Anonymous

            The No True Scotsman fallacy is easily dismissed.  Inductive reasoning is not faith.  In regards to the Pope, I did not claim that he was merely political.  You joust with straw men.

    • Jen

      That’s pretty much my story, too.  My loss of faith wasn’t due to anything on this list: I wasn’t hurt by the church, I wasn’t distracted, I hadn’t moved away, I wasn’t exhausted or even skeptical.  My folks are wonderful, godly people who did their best to raise us as committed, engaged, intelligent believers, and I was, up until about my mid-20s.  Different things stand out every time I look back, but the most obvious eye-openers included the fact that “reasons why the other guy is wrong” is a two-edged sword.  There’s no good reason to believe the Bible is divinely-inspired, but the Quran is not; that Jesus was virgin-born, but Caesar was not; that Noah was real, but Gilgamesh was not; that Harold Camping’s failed prophecies make him a liar, but Ezekiel’s do not; that Christianity is uniquely true, but nobody else is.  In the end, Christianity is far less important to me than the truth.
      As a sidenote, re. Deadline1865′s post, one of the first things that started irritating me about Christian rhetoric was the insistence that “unbelievers have no hope/joy/comfort” and “I don’t know how I would make it through the day without praying.”  So, I stopped praying, to see what would happen.
      As it turns out, not much.  I still get joy and comfort and hope and inspiration from the same places I did before – other people (and the world itself).

  • Steven Olsen

    I don’t go to church because none of it’s claims make sense, and even if they did it advocates and evil moral system. As a good person, I cannot be a Christian.

  • NewEnglandBob

    1. Church is irrelevant
    2. Some people grow out of bronze age fantasies as they mature into adulthood.
    3. Fear mongering by religions is very wrong; do as we say or burn in hell forever.
    4. Pedophiles running the RCC scare away normal people.
    5. Science has disproved most silly nonsense that religion espouses.
    6. Most religions try to control people and tell them what they can and cannot do and who to associate with. This is also wrong.
    7. Read the Old or New testament or the Koran, they are all immoral, xenophobic, misogynistic, racist and thoroughly disgusting books.
    8. Religions rely on faith with no evidence instead of logic, reason and science.

    • Richard Raymond

      and 9th for your list)  By doing research on the internet and reading several  books on the subject we discover that Christianity is a copy cat religion having taken the vast majority of its dogmas and ideology from pagan religions that existed long before Christianity was even thought of. **  How’s that for a nail biter, Christians? 

  • dadorfman

    You cannot be a consistently critical thinking and tolerant person if you are religious. These things are necessary to being a mature adult who can learn and accept new things, so yes religion IS incompatible with adult life and college life.
    It is NOT individualistic or narcissistic. Far from it. A society cannot stand if its population is incapable of applying the basic principles of critical thinking and skepticism.

    • Tim C.

      What do you say about all 9 supreme court justices?. . .they would seem to prove your point wrong.  

      • Drew

        No need to feed the trolls.  They won’t get full, they’ll just crave more.

    • md

       very nicely put. i agree entirely.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, I’m reading some of these responses and sensing a general trend towards divorcing religion from intelligence.
    I regret that people have come to those conclusions, because my experience in knowing Christ actually gave me motivation I didn’t previously have to study things, pursue education, and get a little uncomfortable. If churches are dying &/or driving away young people, they may need to look at themselves to see if they are promoting anti-intellectialism in some form.
    When God said “Love me with all your mind”, I believe He meant it, and the church ought to be a community that encourages people to grow in knowledge.

    • NewEnglandBob

      Delusional, for sure. How do you know him? does he speak to you? Do you see him? Are you taking drugs? Why do you need a crutch to get things done? Are you telling us you are worthless unless someone forces you to do things? Give us some proof of existence.

      • Anonymous

         Well, you’ve already claimed I’m delusional, so there’s nothing for me to say to you that you would find useful. I wish you well, though.

        • Drew

           Thank you for not feeding the trolls.

  • Godfrey from London

    Another reason is “I don’t think I ought to”.  In previous generations there was a fairly widespread sense (I’m talking from the UK, but I think even more so in the US) that we “ought” to go to church or be religious, even if many of us didn’t. Generally speaking, that’s gone. I think that’s a good thing in many ways, because if you go now it’s more likely to be a real choice for a real reason, but it has a profound effect. 

    Thanks for the articles – very useful.

  • Red

    Don’t know how helpful my comment will be, but it takes the question and spins it another direction.

    Here is my story:

    Growing up, I always had the impression that life was just kind of neutral, and God and Satan were both fighting over it. Satan wanted everyone to quit being neutral and be actively evil, and God wanted everyone to quit being neutral and be actively good. But ultimately, God didn’t care much about our lives, only the state of our souls (Many things in the church culture reinforced this worldview). Thus, a lot of things about my faith didn’t make sense to me. Why did non-Christians sometimes do good things if only God was good? Why was God calling us to arbitrary goodness, why not just leave us alone altogether? Why did He insist that we think about heaven when there was a perfectly good earth in the here and now, and it had pretty pressing problems and pretty amazing joys?

    I lived with this uncomfortable tension in one form or another for most of my life, until I stumbled on N.T. Wright’s book “Surprised by Hope.” N.T. Wright gave me an entirely new perspective–that the story of Jesus is not the story of God arbitrarily calling us sinful and saying “Oh but you can get out of this arbitrary punishment if you just forget about this life and think on me instead!” N.T. Wright argued that God created the world to be good, that humans are supposed to enjoy it, and that the story of Jesus is about God RESCUING the good world that has been tainted by evil. Thus, the here and now is not meaningless. We are to see it in light of being His creation, to be enjoyed and worked on and flourished in. But because it’s broken (and by extension we’re somewhat broken too), we’ll experience bad things sometimes. but Jesus wants to invite us into a more full way of being human–a way that emphasizes mercy and grace, not judgment. And a way that will eventually lead to our flourishing new creation, when this life will be finally restored to perfection.

    Suddenly, many of my questions about Christianity were answered. I came to see that if God made a good world, then it only makes sense that there will be lots of good experiences in life, whether or not one calls oneself a “Christian.” I saw that God ISN”T asking us to ignore this life. Most importantly, I saw that my flourishing and my love and my enthusiasm of personality were not only good, but they were part of this Christ-like way of being human. I saw that accepting Christ was NOT about getting a free pass out of a punishment…it’s about connecting to the God who ordained all things to be good, aligning yourself with Him to be part of the new creation after he returns (a new creation that is this one but minus all the crap).

    That shift in worldview–or should I say, that shift in how I viewed the “purpose” of salvation–resolved much of the tensions I’d held as a Christian. Not only that, but it explained a lot of New Testament passages I hadn’t understood before. I certainly can’t say that it would do this for every single person, but I DO wonder how many confused Christian kids are failing to flourish under the old, tired belief that salvation is some kind of fire insurance and that heaven has nothing to do with our lives now.

    That, to me, is what made Christianity look different from all the other religions I knew about.

    • americanwoman343

      I had the same experience with that same book!

  • http://www.timothyburns.com/ Timothy Burns

    I talked to my wife last night, pondering this question. Over the last 35 years, Christianity has become culturally similar to the world. We have “our own” music, conferences, concerts, retreats, books, magazines, even cruises. When I came to Christ in ’79, the only place I could hear contemporary, or culturally relevant Christian music was in dusty coffeehouses on a Fri night. The “established” churches of the day looked down on ANYTHING outside the tradition that they felt was important to their identity.I’m glad that change has come to the stuffy “church lady” attitudes. But here’s the catch. During the same 30 years, while the church was building it’s own set of cultural and tribal rituals (that look more like the world around us), the Church also lost its influence on the culture. In 1970, we didn’t live in a post-Christian America, watch sex and violence paraded on TV as the norm. Christianity and individual Christians were still a dominant cultural force. Something has changed in our camp, in the amount of influence we exert on the unchurched world around us. Are these two simultaneous changes, church culture becoming like the world around us and church power diminishing at the same time, a coincidence. I don’t know. But when we ask questions about the current younger, or next generation of adults not connecting to the Church, I don’t think we can afford to absolve our selves of the responsibility.  God’s kingdom is about sowing and reaping.  The evangelical church as “reaped” our current relationship with the next generation. Maybe we should ask “What have we sown?”
     

    • Drew

      This is ancedotal evidence, but the young adults I know that are leaving the Church are predominately coming from mainline denominations that tend to be more traditional rather than the denominations that tend to be more modern.  In my opinion, the danger of having too modern of a church is not that young adults are repelled, but rather, it can lead to those that are not always strong in their faith (those that blend mix political beliefs and secular beliefs with religious beliefs to come up with their own belief system).

  • Drew

    I appreciate the sentiment from the rabid atheists who have hijacked this post that they left because Christianity is a hoax.  However, that is not the point of this website or this article.  I assume the author is interested in why people are leaving the church so that it can be prevented, not because it is unpreventable once people convert to the religion of atheism.

    • Matt in Memphis

      I’m not sure who this is aimed at, but I don’t recall claiming anything of the sort. Very few of us would reduce your religion to some sort of deliberate conspiracy or “hoax,” but most of us probably do think it arose from some combination of primitive superstition, hearsay, confusion, legend, and cultural indoctrination. This is probably the same way you view the sincerely held religious beliefs of devout Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians. 

      While I am certainly an atheist, which I suppose is my “religion” in the same sense that my favorite sport is not playing hockey, I don’t see how anything from the atheists on this thread could be qualified as “rabid.” One might think that Christians might actually appreciate real reasons from real people who left the religion in addition to speculations from people who do not have an outsider’s perspective. Even if you don’t like my answers, I think I and most of the other atheists here tried to be honest and respectful.  

      • Drew

        Matt,

        #1 – When New England Bob stated that a commenter was delusional and asked if that person was using drugs.  Dadorf man said that critical thinking and being religious is incompatible.  I think that hardly qualifies as “respectful.”

        #2 – There is a fine line between “outsider’s perspective” and “trolling.”  If the dialogue was respectful, then yes, I would appreciate it.  However, when the dialogue changes from “I left Christianity because I did not believe it” to “Here are several reasons why Christianity is a fraud,” then no, I do not appreciate that dialogue, because that is not the purpose of the article.

        #3 – Not sure if I count as a “real” person, but I left Christianity (devout Catholic growing up) and did return.  Those who left Christianity only to become hardcore atheists is a very distinct minority; many who leave simply become agnostic or rejoin again at a later time.

        Hope this helps.  – Andrew

        • Matt in Memphis

          Drew – Upon re-reading the comments, you are right that some of the atheist commenters here could be more respectful. I also didn’t mean to imply that only the atheists in the comment section could possibly have an outsider’s perspective – I was referring to the perspective of the article’s author, but I definitely didn’t make that very clear. Hope that helps    

          • Drew

            It does, thanks.

      • Drew

        You also use the term “delusion.”  I understand that is how you feel, but when you go to a Christian website and say that in your opinion, our beliefs are delusional (which is associated with mental illness), I would not classify that as respectful.

        • Matt in Memphis

          Drew –  the most accurate definition of “delusion” is “a strongly held belief despite superior evidence to the contrary.” That is exactly how I meant it, and it certainly does not necessarily imply some sort of mental illness. While I think the evidence shows that supernatural religious claims are almost certainly false, I do not think that most religious people are mentally ill or insane. In any case, you will also notice that I was referring to my own former beliefs as “delusional,” and I do not consider myself mentally ill. 

          If even this is deemed too offensive, then apparently no honest dialogue on this topic is even possible. No doubt, you think I and anyone who is not a Christian is likewise “delusional” in this sense. I am not offended by this in any way, nor should I be. I just think there is a disagreement here and the facts and arguments are on my side.  That’s all. 

          • Drew

            Think of it this way -

            I write an article about why young adults die.  I discuss car crashes, suicide, and overdoses.  You then chime in and say natural causes.  Yes, on the face, your point is valid.  However, I think it is inherent in the article that it was written from the viewpoint that we are discussing why young adults die, so that it can be prevented.  Natural cause cannot be prevented, so there is little point on dwelling on that cause.

            Piatt wrote an article about why young people leave the Church and it discusses problems with the Church.  You then chime in and say you don’t believe.  Yes, on the face, your point is valid.  However, I think it is inherent that this was written by a Christian, on a Christian website, from the viewpoint that we are discussing why young adults leave the Church so that it can be prevented.  Unbelief cannot be prevented, so there is little point on dwelling on that cause.

            Simply put, your dialogue is not constructive.  This is a dialogue within Christianity, not an opportunity for other faiths to come in and tell us why they think Christianity is false.

          • americanwoman343

            You have evidence that supernatural religious claims are ‘almost certainly false’? What evidence is that?

  • Rootstock

    8. Colour co-ordinated services - In trying to be relevant, we put on a show with seamless segues, from U2 clone worship band to videos to hipster pastor. I sit, and I watch, and I disengage.
    Last summer, I went to a Jamaican migrant farmworker service. It was rough and tumble, slightly disorganized (according to our standards) and everyone was invited to contribute to the service. There was an urgency and a feeling of necessity in what they were doing that left me with a joy I hadn’t experienced in quite awhile at church.

  • allthisisforYou

    I’m writing a paper on this topic and this article is very insightful to me. People believe God and church are irrelevant because they haven’t really experienced Christ for who he is. People are in essence the very same… we were all made in the image of God, with God’s desire for us to reflect who He is. Church and religion won’t do anything for you, it’s about a real true relationship with Jesus Christ. It isn’t about following a bunch of rules, or attending mass every Sunday. It isn’t about being a good person. It’s about allowing Jesus to wash you clean. Real true Faith does offer you something that is unique. Faith gives you joy and unrelenting hope. The only thing this world offers is pain and suffering. People believe things of this world can offer joy but they can’t… they offer quick happiness that changes with circumstances. Real joy, which comes from Faith in Christ, doesn’t alter when altercations come. It isn’t about happiness, it’s about joy. Happiness & Joy are 2 completely different things. Happiness is based upon circumstances. Joy is unrelenting. 

  • md

    Religion and faith are deeply personal issues, so each person who goes or doesn’t go has their own reasons that can’t necessarily be grouped together.

    As for me, I’m 23 and I left the church when I was 19. I left because my church growing up was very fundamental and believed every word in the bible as fact. They believed everyone who was non-christian will go to hell. They believed the earth is 14,000 years old and just ignored fossil evidence and other scientific evidence stating otherwise.

    I am a scientist, so blatantly ignoring what we have learned doesn’t fly with my logic. I need something in my life that is a little more substantial, that can stand up to hard issues like that in a logical, coherent way, rather than just plugging your ears and saying “lalallala”.

    I also cannot believe that other deeply religious, loving, incredible people who are not christian would go to hell for that  simple reason. What about gandhi? What about the whole other side of the world where christianity is not a part of the culture?

    religion is a cultural excercise, and so it is different in different parts of the world. to look at your own and believe it is the only right way is egocentric and, in my opinion, idiotic.

    you can’t just ignore the facts. you can’t just say that you are going to heaven by divine right because you were lucky enough to learn about jesus at a young age rather than, say, mohammed or confucious.

  • DJB813

    The problem is that we as a nation have had it too easy for too long. People don’t see a need for God because we, as a nation have not had a time of life and death struggle since 1945. That generation endured the hopelessness of the depression and horrors of world war II. C.S. Lewis said that God screams at us in our pain. He allows pain to show us our own limitations and mortality. God is, whether we believe in Him or not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Derek-Yisrael/100003269252605 Derek Yisrael

    I believe many quit the “institutional” church because many see the hypocrisy and see that it is not Christ that many churches are representing. As Christ said that many would come in His name, but are not actually coming in His true name. I don’t believe people leaving institutional churches that are not in Christ is wrong at all. I believe that they may be called out by God’s grace and truth. Has anyone thought of that? There are many scriptures that talk about the false teachers and teachings that would be floating around and so believers are to watch for those things and not associate with them. This is in scripture

  • soldierslady

    So, ultimately it is out of a lazy and self-centered attitude. I sure am glad that isn’t how Jesus approached the world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.richards.313 Joe Richards

    “In many cases, it’s not that we’re walking away from church; we never went in.”

    Exactamente! And exactly why this essay is wrongly titled, “Seven Reasons Why Young Adults QUIT Church.”

    You can ONLY QUIT what you’ve been part of in the first place. People do not say, “Joey QUIT the baseball team he never joined.”

    Stated more bluntly, kids for the last several generations have been growing up in Godless homes under parents who never themselves went to church and therefore do NOT take their progeny.

    This is NOT primarily the Church’s fault primarily because it is NOT God’s fault. This is the quintessential work of Satan. Satan’s winning many individual battles even if he is destined to lose the consummate war and be finally defeated. Lucifer is most responsible for the casualties; NOT God!

    We cannot blame the many struggling churches struggling to keep their doors open welcoming everyone who enters in. We have to blame evil.

    At the same time we should not be surprised. Jesus prophesied this would occur and it is. If students study at godless, morally bankrupt, largely Marxist-based colleges and universities where the preponderance of professors in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Philosophy, and Gender and Race Studies Departments profess to be Marxists and/or Atheists, what should we expect? A massive revival?!

    If kids are exposed to atheistic immorality at home and then at college, they emerge as young adults with 22 years of godless, immoral and Marixt inculcation. We don’t expect Jefferson to emerge from a communist collective, any more than we expect Jesus to proceed from Satan.

    Christians have largely shunned an education vocation for the business world for generations, and now Marxist Educators shun the few of us when we show up and apply. We conceded the education industry largely to the Godless Marxists and now we wonder at the results?!

    Morally fiscal and social Conservatives, theologically Theist and Deist, must reclaim education, from kindergarten through at least undergraduate school. It will take generations. Many of us are being barred at the door and passed over for less qualified but more “politically correct” candidates who will tout the Politically Correct, Race/Gender/Political-Economic/Sexual Orientation party line. There’s very little room for God in the classrooms churning out the political elite who more often than not join the Democratic Party and run for office on platforms of filicide via unlimited abortion, Homosexual Marriage, Profligate spending leading to multi-trillion dollar deficits and debt, and government takeover of industries and enterprises Constitutionally understood to belong to the private sector.

    Don’t blame the Church for what God warned us would happen as Satan gained footholds within education and government, and even the home.

    Rebuke Satan and exorcise him!

  • http://twitter.com/LakotaCrow Crow Whetstone

    I think another big problem is that is our nation’s young adults work all the Sunday shifts. Almost every Sunday I get a comment in my store about… “Why aren’t you in Church?” They assume I am some heathen when the reality is that I have a degree in Religion and have to bust my booty working off the college thing. If no one shopped on Sundays, many business might close up for the day, leaving millions of young adults available to come to service.

  • TJ

    I can speak from experience. If the institutionalized church was structured like the Acts church there would be no need to write about why people do not attend church. However, it is not, so therefore people get to write about why people are quitting. No one ever writes articles about people who left churches, because they felt that they belonged and were truly loved and accepted.

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