"Nones" on the Rise
In October 2012, Pew Forum published a research report titled “‘Nones’ on the Rise” showing the number of unchurched Americans is growing at an unprecedented rate.
- In 2007, the unaffiliated were just 15.3% of the population. By 2012, the unaffiliated had grown to 19.6%. This growth took place almost exclusively among those under age 30.
- In 2007, 25% of Americans under 30 were unaffiliated with any church. By 2012, 32% of Americans under 30 are unaffiliated. If the growth of the unaffiliated continues at the same rate, by 2017 41% of Americans under 30 will be unchurched. Go to article or go to report.
What factors contribute to this rise?
The Barna Research Group conducted polls to learn what non-Christians and former Christians think of the church, resulting in two books. The book UnChristian: What a new generation really thinks of Christianity… and why it matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons describes Christianity from the outside looking in. The book You Lost Me: Why young Christians are leaving Church… and rethinking faith by David Kinnaman describes why more than half of Christians leave the church in their twenties.
The answers given by the two groups are not entirely different. The non-Christians view the church as hypocritical, more interested in building an empire than people, anti-homosexual, too political, judgmental and sheltered. It’s not a flattering picture and the caricature is not far from the mark. Former church-goers see the church as overprotective, shallow, anti-science, repressive/anti-sexual, exclusive and doubtless/unthinking. While this is important research, it may not tell us everything we wish to know.
Have intellectual doubts been overlooked?
The Barna research mentions that former church members see the church as anti-science, but Barna tends to downplay that aspect. In the 2009 Pew Forum poll, when those who had become unaffiliated were asked if science had proven religion to be superstition, 32% of former Catholics and 32% of former Protestants said yes. When Christianity is seen as untrue or intellectually untenable, it loses its moral authority. This loss of moral authority is largely the reason the culture is demanding the church accept gay marriage. The intellectual doubts arising from the university experience is critically important. Frank Turek’s website reports:
- 70-75% of Christian youth leave the church after high school (see survey data at Barna and USA Today).
- Christian youth in America are not being taught to cross examine the skeptical and atheistic views they encounter when they leave home.
- More than half of all college professors view evangelical Christian students unfavorably (see article at Free Republic).
- College professors are five times more likely to identify themselves as atheists than the general public.
- Christian students are not equipped to resist rabidly anti-Christian college professors who are intent on converting their students to atheism.
- The “new atheists” — Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens — are writing books and are growing in popularity.
Why is the university so unfriendly to Christianity? Most large university campuses are state-owned and fearful of promoting religion. While atheist professors are quite comfortable promoting their worldview, Christian professors are not. As a result, students then get a biased view of the evidence for God and conclude Christianity is not intellectually viable. This leads to non-Christians become less willing to hear the gospel and the students raised in Christian homes often leave the church.
The Perpetuated message on campus
The constant message of atheist university professors is that Christianity is anti-science and that students must choose between science and faith. Of course, this is not true but university students are not usually well-prepared to deal with these claims.