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July 27th, 2013
08:33 AM ET

Why millennials are leaving the church

Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN

(CNN) - At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial.

I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb.

I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.

I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.

Despite having one foot in Generation X, I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.

Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.

I talk about how the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules, and how millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.

Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands. …”

And I proceed to bang my head against the podium.

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates - edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.

But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.

In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.

Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions - Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. - precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.

We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.

Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.

Now these trends are obviously true not only for millennials but also for many folks from other generations. Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from forty-somethings and grandmothers, Generation Xers and retirees, who send me messages in all caps that read “ME TOO!” So I don’t want to portray the divide as wider than it is.

But I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community.

Their answers might surprise you.

Rachel Held Evans is the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." She blogs at rachelheldevans.com. The views expressed in this column belong to Rachel Held Evans.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • evangelicals • Opinion

soundoff (9,864 Responses)
  1. George

    This article shows that generations are becoming more and more accepting of what is normal for people. The problem is that sin (doing as we feel and please) is normal. It is a condition WE ARE BORN WITH. Yes, we are born with sinful behaviors. All of us. While a true bible believing church will accept all people it can't accept sinful behavior as OK. Yeah, I have sinful behaviors that are a normal part of me and I don't expect to ever lose them in this life. What I can do and Jesus requests, no requires, is to reject them as being OK and turn to Him for redemption. When we do that he readily forgives and accepts us.So, I don't I believe it is the church that needs to change but it is millennials who must repent and realize that eternity is what is important, not a few years here in this life they place so much importance on.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Sin is a crime against the god of the Bible

      The god of the Bible does not exist

      Therefore there is no sin.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:20 am |
      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        R'amen!

        July 29, 2013 at 11:22 am |
      • Meredith

        You hope that God does not exist so that you are not accountable to Him. Yet He (some might include She) does exist. How do I know? I converse with God every day. "I walk with Him and talk with Him along life's narrow way." Why don't you try talking to God, maybe you will discover that your words aren't just hitting the ceiling. He can handle your doubts and even your sarcasm. The church is different from God because it is full of humans who aren't perfect (like God) but tend to be sinful and selfish. We're working on it with Jesus' help, but we aren't there yet.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
        • Honey Badger Don't Care

          If you talk to god you are delusional, if god talks back you are insane.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
        • ReligionIsBS

          Merideth,

          How do you explain your god esxists when I also talk to my god through a toaster, and the toaster claims that your god doesnt even exist? My god talks back to me, does yours?

          July 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
        • forgotten

          I tried talking to god when I was a Baptist. I tried when I was Catholic, and when I converted to a Born Again Christian many years later. I've never experienced anything other than the feeling of talking to myself. You may say that I wasn't devoted enough, I'd beg to differ as you don't know me or of my past conviction. I gave my all and, in the end, felt just as empty and lost as I had been at the start. All of my effort was fruitless. I realized that religion is no more than a control mechanism used by those in power to keep the "believers" def, dumb, and blind. The bible is merely a book of moral stories, nothing more. There is/are no god(s)! It's all fantasy!

          July 29, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
        • sam stone

          We are accountable to our fellow man, Meredith

          July 29, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        @Meredith,

        Many people claim to talk to many different gods and they are as sincere as you are. How can anyone know you are right and the others are wrong? Answer: They can't because none of them can demonstrate the 'truth' of their claims, your claim is no different. I can't accept your baseless claim without accepting theirs. Since the claims contradict each other they should all be rejected until such time as they can be verified independently. And even is the god of Abraham could be verified I would change my mind as far as existence, but I still would not worship that immoral being.

        They can't all be correct.....but they can all be wrong.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • hee hee

      Limbs... so... heavy....

      Worldview sapping will to live.... boredom... taking hold.

      Must ... leave comment board.... learn... new things... before it's ... too late

      July 29, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Robert

      George, you hit the nail on the head.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • justjohn

      hey there, blowhard bluto. go brutalize with your false idol and leave the planet with your pitious hubris intact.

      yes your false idol, your golden calf, your satan in sheep's clothing is the biiiiible itself.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  2. Bev Bingle

    Bless you, Rachel! You clearly articulate where we all need to be.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  3. Dash

    As one born squarely in the middle of genX and the millenials, and as a Jewish believer in Christ, I find this article so ridiculously trite that it is almost laughable.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Marianne

      Try to come back only when you have something of substance to say.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:10 am |
      • IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

        You too Marianne...

        July 29, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • JJ

      You're a Jew and believe that Jesus is the son of god?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  4. Jess

    http://birdoftheair.blogspot.com/2012/08/my-dream-church.html

    July 29, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  5. Dyslexic doG

    nice article but it's really not as complex as all that.

    millennials are leaving Christianity because they recognize it for the bronze age voodoo foolishness that it is.

    millenials know the tooth fairy is imaginary despite all the books written about it and despite their parents telling them it was real ... they know santa claus is imaginary despite all the books written about him and despite their parents telling them he was real ... they know the easter bunny is imaginary despite all the books written about it and despite their parents telling them it was real ...and they know god is imaginary despite all the books written about him and despite their parents and priests telling them he was real ...

    July 29, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Bob

      Great post, DD. Very accurate case statement, I think.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      July 29, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  6. RobertOKUSA

    The actual reason people are turning away from religion is that all religions are fairy tales and, with modern science and technology available to the unwashed masses, people can now see this for themselves.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • skytag

      The simplest answer is often the correct one.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  7. James

    You say all of this, and it sounds good, but the reality is that the churches growing in the millennial demographic all seem to be offering exactly what you say they aren't looking for...confusing.

    I think ideologically it sounds better to say that you want more substance, but the reality is that you also want the coffee bar, relaxed atmosphere, relevant music, etc. And I think that's okay.

    I, too, would be classified as a millennial, and I want all of those things. No, I don't want them at the cost of a watered down gospel, but the notion that we can't be a 21st century church without doing so is absurd.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Bob

      James, the fact that your gospel is changeable, has changed, and can be watered down should be yet one more indication to you that it is not the word of a god, and that your religion is entirely man made. Now, if only you could summon the courage to face that.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      July 29, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I left because worshipping a god that rewards and punishes people based on "belief" is non-sensical and immoral.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  8. Harry Cline

    The ch allege in the 21st century is how does a God get back into the hearts and minds of mankind. It certainly will not be through religion or by the churches.
    Unfortunately that has been the greatest detriment, but simply as to a belief in some higher power but the understanding of it.

    Teachers will still play an important role, and those teachers are even the parents and friends. But the questions remain will those that teach about a God be from a manuscript or from a personal belief and understanding.

    If we are running around trying to convince people of the existence of a God then I would say we lack the faith ourselves. Mankind has always been very fundamental in their belief systems, meaning they need to touch, and see and feel something in order to be believed.

    The understanding is by faith. That is the first step towards the God relationship. The heaven and hell spiel need not be forced, we are all inherently born with the knowledge of right and wrong and can comprehend it at the age of accountability.

    Those who are not hard wired to tight are generally doing 25 to life or in some rehab, or still living at home at 40 bleeding their parents dry.

    The second challenge of this young century is to place the fault of a screwed up world and society where it belongs, which is not on the shoulders of a God but squarely falls on mankind's. And if some are looking for signs and miracles good luck, and please stop asking why a God allowed certain things to happen.

    Free will people. In other words there is no interference in the affairs or happenings of people, places or things. Or as Forrest Gump would say, "s–t happens",,,get over it.

    I personally could care less what you think or believe, what ever get's you through. Most of you however will go to your graves always wondering. Believe what you will, but please stop trying to convince some you have all the answers.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      OR, we could stop believing in fairy tales and start living rationaly.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:45 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        Amen!!!

        July 29, 2013 at 10:55 am |
      • Harry Cline

        @Honey Badger Don't Care,

        Isn't that the worlds problem today, their rational is malfunctioned. Fanatics to this side and the delusional on the other. Drowning in all the chaos from crime to drugs to gender confusion.

        George Orwell was close, everything is backwards. Good is Bad and Evil is Good. Self indulgence laced with chemicals and fraud. And college graduates who barely read and comprehend at an 8th grade level.

        And even some who seek to reverse evolution .. (beam me up Scotty)

        July 29, 2013 at 10:56 am |
        • Honey Badger Don't Care

          I think that you're still confusing reality with fiction.

          Bad things have always happened, bad people have always existed. We need to get rid of these iron age myths and deal with the problems in a ratoinal way using logic and reason.

          What "gender confusion" are you talking about? People should be free to do what they want with their lives as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of others. That is what the Consti tution is all about.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:21 am |
        • Harry Cline

          @Honey Badger Don't Care

          You are answering your own questions because it's only rational to you because you believe in it. You have no logic ! You have only what feels good to you. And you'll will go to your grave trying to make excuses for it. (cause deep down you have your doubts or simply scared your thought process's where warped)

          July 29, 2013 at 11:27 am |
        • skytag

          "Isn't that the worlds problem today, their rational is malfunctioned."

          This is even more true of the people who embrace fairytales to explain the world around them and avoid dealing with harsh realities in life.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
        • skytag

          @Harry Cline: "You are answering your own questions because it's only rational to you because you believe in it. You have no logic ! You have only what feels good to you. And you'll will go to your grave trying to make excuses for it."

          This textbook case of projection is too funny. What better evidence that religion makes people stupid? Every bit of this applies to you and the rest of the Christian community. You have no evidence for anything you believe, but you believe it because it makes you feel good. Christianity seams rational to you only because you accept a collection of beliefs and rationalizations for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

          No one makes excuses better than a Christian. Excuses for the lack of any evidence God exists, for why there are thousands of religions and nothing they all have in common, for why God can change men's hearts but he didn't change Hitler's or Stalin's, for why all life is sacred but God lets millions of the unborn die every year in miscarriages, and on and on. All you people have are excuses, you're just too brainwashed to see it.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:50 am |
        • Harry Cline

          @skytag,

          The question remains, do we want to tolerate those harsh realities and the status quo or change it for the better ? We know from experience that if left up to mankind's own devises we all suffer in the end.

          The millennium is littered with failed social experiments, that unfortunately can never be undone. The sad irony is that those failures where clearly visible before they ever took hold or got implemented.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:55 am |
        • Huh?

          "The question remains, do we want to tolerate those harsh realities and the status quo or change it for the better ? We know from experience that if left up to mankind's own devises we all suffer in the end. "

          Religious people find it very annoying that people don't need God to be good, as science has now incontestably proved.

          For millennia, we've been brainwashed into believing that we needed the Almighty to redeem us from an essentially corrupt nature. Left to our own devices, people would quickly devolve into beasts, more violent, tactless, aggressive, and selfish, than we already are.

          Today, we know that this isn't true. With the discovery of mirror neurons by Italian neuroscientist Giaccomo Rizzolatti in the 1990s, we now have physiological proof of why - and how - our species became hard-wired for goodness. Mirror neurons are miraculous cells in the brain whose sole purpose is to harmonize us with our environments. By reflecting the outside world inward, we actually become each other - a little bit; neurologically changed by what is happening around us. Mirror neurons are the reason that we have empathy and can feel each other's pain. It is because of mirror neurons that you blush when you see someone else humiliated, flinch when someone else is struck, and can't resist the urge to laugh when seeing a group struck with the giggles. (Indeed, people who test for "contagious yawning" tend to be more empathic.) These tiny mirrors are the key to most things noble and good inside us.

          It is through mirror neurons - not God - that we redeem ourselves, achieve salvation, and are "reborn" in virtuous ways once co-opted by religions. Evolution knew what she was doing. A group of successful cooperators has a much higher chance of thriving than a population of selfish liars. In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year. Although we are ethical works-in-progress, the vast majority of us are naturally positive creatures - meaning not harmful to our environments - most of the time in most of the ways that matter. And God has nothing to do with it.

          Spirituality does but God doesn't. Evolutionary psychologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired with a five-toned moral organ that focuses on a quintet of ethical values - one of which is purity, or sacredness. In a world that can sometimes be disgusting, we evolved an upper tier of emotional longing - the aspiration for purity - to keep us balanced in this satyricon of carnal delights (where animality beckons and frequently wins). Our need for sacredness is part of our ancient survival apparatus, and manifests in what we call faith, the need to connect with that sacred dimension. This has been the primary purpose of religion, of course - to congregate people for the Greater Good - but God has been, in fact, the divine carrot. The important part was communion, a context in which to transcend ourselves, if only for an hour on Sundays. Without this ability "to turn off the Me and turn on the We," moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells us, our
          species would still be wandering around as groups of nomads, unable to create a civilization.

          Aside from mirror neurons, there's oxytocin, the molecule of connection (also known as the molecule of love). It's fascinating to learn that the vagus nerve produces more oxytocin when we witness virtuous behavior in others that makes us want to be better people ourselves. We are wired by nature to be elevated at the sight of other people's goodness, mirror neurons and oxytocin conspiring to improve the species. Miraculous though it is, this natural human phenomenon has nothing to do with theology.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:59 am |
        • IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

          Huh? and all others who say that scientific explanations on how things work disproves God, i am not sure i understand your logic. Just because there is a scientific explanation for something in the human body, doesn't mean there is no God. All Christians don't bury our head in the sand and ignore science in order to believe in God.
          Also, the inherent good in people argument you make is laughable! "In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year." What an absolute joke. It ignores human history. Also, please, like most atheist, you voice an opinion as fact. PROVE, with a link, that there is a zero sum of good acts verses bad acts on the planet in a given day. Your explanation is neat and I believe it could be accurate...doesn't disprove God.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
        • skytag

          @Harry Cline: "The question remains, do we want to tolerate those harsh realities and the status quo or change it for the better ?"

          An example of the harsh realities to which I refer would be that when you die you cease to exist. No afterlife, no going to a better place, no seeing loved ones again, your mom isn't in a better place when she dies, and so on. We do our time here and then we're gone. Obviously this isn't as appealing as the Christian narrative, but reality is often less appealing than fiction.

          Another is that life isn't fair and justice does not always prevail. There is no afterlife in which God makes rights the injustices of this life. The serial killer who is never caught is never punished, for example.

          We have no all powerful friend who can control the weather or other natural phenomenon, will ensure the good guys always win, and so on. You cannot make it rain by dancing, although people have believed that in the past.

          These are harsh realities of which I speak. We can't change them, but religion gives people the ability to deny them.

          "We know from experience that if left up to mankind's own devises we all suffer in the end."

          We know from experience that religious explanations can be wrong and that a lot of people have suffered at the hands of religious people acting in the name of God. This is because the actions of the religious are just the actions of people basing their actions on beliefs for which there is no evidence.

          "The millennium is littered with failed social experiments, that unfortunately can never be undone."

          Welcome to reality. You choose to believe a lot of fairytales because you want to believe the mistakes we make as flawed beings can be magically avoided if we'll just rely on your imaginary friend, yet there is no historical evidence whatsoever that any belief in the supernatural has saved us from making such mistakes.

          In fact, a major flaw in your reasoning is that even if God existed we would still make lots of mistakes because there is no reliable way for us to access his knowledge and wisdom. Believers conveniently forget how often their fellow believers in the past were wrong. You do know epileptic seizures aren't caused by demonic possessions, right?

          "The sad irony is that those failures where clearly visible before they ever took hold or got implemented."

          I'm sure there were many who said that about the Spanish Inquisition.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
        • skytag

          @Harry Cline: Why is it when I make valid points you people ignore them and just respond with more unsupported claims reaffirming what you believe?

          July 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
        • IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

          Maybe SKYTAG because you guys do the same. i am very interested in where you get your facts...You are so sure there is no God! What link do you have to such Universal knowledge? HOW DO YOU KNOW, outside of your own arrogance? Please don't say common sense or logic. Please give all of ignorant fools your source. Seems rather selfish of you to keep it to yourself.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
        • skytag

          @IHAVESEENT THELIGHT: "Huh? and all others who say that scientific explanations on how things work disproves God"

          That's not what he said.

          "i am not sure i understand your logic."

          Because you don't understand our point. No one is suggesting that any scientific discovery disproves the existence of God.

          Probably the #1 reason people start believing in gods is a need to have answers for things that can't be explained by their current understanding of how the world works. What causes rain, wind, earthquakes, lightning, thunder, tornadoes and so on? What is fire? Why do people get sick? How did life begin? What happens to you when you die? On and on the questions go.

          Over the millennia religious believers have happily provided explanations for all these and more by invoking God and various spirits. Lightning is caused by Thor throwing his hammer. Disease is caused by evil spirits. Natural disasters are caused by angry gods. Seizures are caused by demonic possessions. The list of these supernatural explanations is virtually endless.

          The problem for believers is that also over the millennia science has a history of debunking these supernatural explanations. The more science can explain the less "evidence" there is of God's existence, since all of those "explanations" people used to believe were seen as evidence of God. If you believe disease is caused by evil spirits then you see every sick person as evidence of supernatural forces at work in the world. If you believe disease is caused by bacteria, viruses, and prions, not so much.

          Furthermore, every time science debunks an explanation involving God it casts further doubt on the credibility of explanations science hasn't been able to debunk...yet, and those who offer them.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
        • IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

          Skytag, once again you have jumped from one conclusion to another. I accept all scientific explanations that have solide proven factual data. I need all this proof because it is people coming up with the information. As you and I can actually agree, PEOPLE GET IT WRONG sometimes. I have no problem accepting that bacteria and viruses cause illness. I even go to a Dr. He believes in God, but is a Dr. of internal medicine...WHAT? How can it be? He believes in God and also believes in Science and knows more about the inner workings of the body than you or I, so it kind of makes your point ...pointless. I am sorry for your struggle but once again...you are not making any sense. I have diabetes...because my pancreas doesn't produce beta cells, not because of a demon. Still believe in God though...

          July 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          @IHAVESEENTHE LIGHT "Also, please, like most atheist, you voice an opinion as fact. PROVE, with a link"

          All religion is opinion framed as fact....so why do you have a problem with this?

          July 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
        • skytag

          @IHAVESEENT THELIGHT: "Also, the inherent good in people argument you make is laughable!"

          This is not an argument.

          ""In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year." What an absolute joke. It ignores human history."

          Reality is not your happy place. He didn't claim bad things don't happen, or even that they aren't numerous. He claimed the good things outnumber the bad by a wide margin. And it's true, assuming we're talking about relatively normal "good" things and not outliers like quitting your job to go work with inner city youth.

          You've allowed the news to distort your perception of the world around us. The news focuses on the shocking and sensational. Bad news sells. Good news, in part because it's so normal, doesn't sell.

          "Also, please, like most atheist, you voice an opinion as fact."

          I hope you don't teach anything that requires critical thinking skills or your students are in deep doo doo. Everything you people claim about God is belief (opinion) unsupported by any objective evidence or facts whatsoever.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
        • skytag

          @IHAVESEENT THELIGHT: "Maybe SKYTAG because you guys do the same."

          What a crock. You'd have to be a pathological liar to tell a whopper like this. There are countless posts in this discussion in which I've examined someone's claims and arguments in detail and shown why their logic is flawed and offered reasonable alternative explanations. Ditto for several other atheists. Deny reality all you want, but don't bear false witness against us. It isn't Christian.

          "i am very interested in where you get your facts...You are so sure there is no God! What link do you have to such Universal knowledge? HOW DO YOU KNOW, outside of your own arrogance? Please don't say common sense or logic. Please give all of ignorant fools your source. Seems rather selfish of you to keep it to yourself."

          Condescending sarcasm is not Christian behavior, does not prove or disprove anything, other than the fact that you have no valid counter arguments. Your performance here as a debater has been rather pathetic. Straw man arguments, no valid logic, no facts whatsoever even though you seem others should have to present them, trying to bolster your credibility by telling us you're a teacher, and so on. Is this really the best you can do even with your imaginary friend there to guide you?

          July 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
        • Harry Cline

          @skytag,

          The trap that you fall into and in fact most including believers, is trying to equate a God with a religion or theology.

          That's how a God got corrupted. Religion was created by mankind to control the peasants. Science is every bit conjecture as a belief in a higher power. Try to remember that mankind creates the test to validate. And there are just as many scientific frauds out there as religious ones.

          The second point here is you wait around hoping science will explain the yet unexplainable. Science not based off of pseudo science hasn't and doesn't it's already been explain. No credible scientist ever looks to disprove that 'intelligent design', because they know without it they have no explanations.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
        • skytag

          @IHAVESEENT THELIGHT: "Skytag, once again you have jumped from one conclusion to another."

          Once again you are full of it.

          "I accept all scientific explanations that have solide proven factual data. I need all this proof because it is people coming up with the information. As you and I can actually agree, PEOPLE GET IT WRONG sometimes. I have no problem accepting that bacteria and viruses cause illness."

          Are you dumb or just intentionally using straw man arguments? You don't seem to be able to grasp any point we make. I wasn't talking about you, I was talking about the history of supernatural explanations for phenomenon we see in the world around us.

          What part of "Over the millennia" did you not understand? Do you not know what "millennia" means? You completely ignored my point, as you people always do because you don't want to deal with it.

          What you refuse to address is that if folks just like you have such a history of getting it wrong with so many supernatural explanations, why would any rational person believe any of the remaining ones simply because they haven't been debunked? You want us to believe all the wrong ones were anomalies, so just ignore those and believe the ones you're telling us now are all true.

          Faith based on a proven track record is reasonable and rational. The believers' track record is abysmal, with all supernatural explanations so far falling into one of two categories: a) debunked or b) validity as yet undetermined.

          "I even go to a Dr. He believes in God, but is a Dr. of internal medicine...WHAT? How can it be? He believes in God and also believes in Science and knows more about the inner workings of the body than you or I, so it kind of makes your point ...pointless."

          Only because you're not bright enough to understand it, as evidenced by arguing against something that wasn't my point.

          "I am sorry for your struggle"

          I have no struggle. Apparently you're having a delusional episode.

          "but once again...you are not making any sense."

          I'm not making any sense to you, but frankly you sound like a idiot. Apparently I just haven't been dumbing my explanations down enough for you to get what should be obvious points.

          "I have diabetes...because my pancreas doesn't produce beta cells, not because of a demon."

          See above. Then get a brain.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
        • skytag

          @Harry Cline: "The trap that you fall into and in fact most including believers, is trying to equate a God with a religion or theology."

          You are mistaken. I do not equate these. A religion is a narrative built around a god or multiple gods. Initially people invent a god to explain phenomenon like rain, thunder, natural disasters and so on. Then they try to figure out ways to keep these gods happy so they'll make it rain and protect them from evil spirits, and how to avoid making the gods angry so they won't punish people with floods and pestilence. Over time their theories — all with no evidential basis — evolve into a set of beliefs we call a religion.

          "Science is every bit conjecture as a belief in a higher power."

          The difference is that in science a theory is just a theory until it is confirmed by observation and study. In religion theories are immediately elevated to the status of facts and truth without any objective confirmation at all.

          "The second point here is you wait around hoping science will explain the yet unexplainable."

          Again, you are mistaken. If God is with you always, why are you so often wrong? Nothing I said suggests I'm waiting for science to explain anything. Unlike you folks, I don't need an explanation for everything and have made peace with the reality that we'll ever be able to explain something. Unable to make peace with not knowing the answer to things believers have a long history of just making up explanations out of thin air. Then they cling to them unless science debunks them.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
        • Harry Cline

          @skytag,

          As long as you don't lose focus of that difference. Keep that separation. People will use religion as those will use science to explain or even justify actions. Keep a God out of that equation and prejudiced.

          Nothing you have mention is not well understood, and in fact it is well understood by a good many in the faith. That's where mythology comes into play. Ancient peoples where not as privy to the information available in modern times, and mankind has always sought the meaning life and their purpose in it.

          And then some figured out how to use religion as a control mechanism and a political wedge. We see that even now in the green movement. A form of alternative energy religion. The poor ignorant in this case are the 20 something college hemp kids.

          But when we look be-hide the scenes as we do with religion and the political right we find the same rich pimps albeit under a different political label.

          Good luck, and may the force be with you ..

          July 29, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
        • skytag

          @Harry Cline: "As long as you don't lose focus of that difference. Keep that separation. People will use religion as those will use science to explain or even justify actions. Keep a God out of that equation and prejudiced."

          People don't use "religion" to explain anything. They use God (or Satan or other evil spirit) to explain things. Those explanations are incorporated into a larger set of beliefs and often influenced by them to ensure internal consistency, and once enough people subscribe to a set of beliefs it becomes a religion.

          "Nothing you have mention is not well understood, and in fact it is well understood by a good many in the faith. That's where mythology comes into play. Ancient peoples where not as privy to the information available in modern times, and mankind has always sought the meaning life and their purpose in it."

          You continue to remain oblivious to my point. It's frustrating to attempt substantive discussion with people who are not honest enough to address your points, but choose instead to ignore them.

          Instead of offering this useless drivel, why don't you address the issue I clearly explained? If you people could be wrong so many times in the past, why should anyone give your current explanations any credence? It's a simple question, but you people never address it.

          July 29, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
        • Harry Cline

          @skytag,

          I was trying to give you a way out. The fact that you are still here speaks volumes of your own deniable truths, truths you may not even be consciously aware of but never the less some void in your life that seeks answers or even possibly fulfillment.

          Keep searching you may get there some day, and if not what did you have to lose. You'll die and perhaps even be reincarnated into a Jesuit priest or a grasshopper.

          My guess is your simply confused with the "proved time and time again" rap. Proved what ? Some nut job using God to predict the coming of Christ or the end of the world. About as clueless as you seem to be.

          Stop pretending your so smart and try thinking outside the box. (I know a clique)

          July 29, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "Free will people. In other words there is no interference in the affairs or happenings of people, places or things"

      That is not what the Bible says, you are describing a Deistic god and a Deistic god behaves in the exact same way as "no god" and is therefore useless to have a belief in.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • skytag

      "The ch allege in the 21st century is how does a God get back into the hearts and minds of mankind."

      It would help a lot if he became real for a change.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  9. Anon

    Have you seen the glow in Christians eyes when catastrophes happen?
    In their minds those are supposed signs that "Jesus" is arriving soon to take them to their imaginary paradise.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Mike

      Read the Bible, silly person. A catastrophe isn't a sign Jesus is coming, it's that he's so close already more and more like labour pains. Get onboard or get left behind.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:36 am |
      • What is going on? FREEDOM

        Isn't a sign that Jesus is closer either. Accidents are accidents and catastrophes are catastrophes. No spiritual force involved whatsoever.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:46 am |
      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        The bible is part codified, early Iron Age oral tradition (OT) and part fiction (NT).

        July 29, 2013 at 10:46 am |
      • hee hee

        That's what Anon was talking about right there! Thanks for obliging!

        July 29, 2013 at 11:13 am |
      • skytag

        People have been saying this for nearly 2000 years. Talk about slow learners.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:39 am |
      • hee hee

        See, a bit of knowledge of history makes this comment silly.

        The plague of 1666 was a catastrophe... so was the Lisbon earthquake of 1755... among with many other examples, these were taken as signs of the apocalypse, by countless earlier versions of you.

        Read history, and reflect. Maybe it's not too late for you.

        (To other posters who think I'm rude: yes, I could be a bit less patronizing, but this guy is delighting in the thought of our suffering. You want me to be nice about it?)

        July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
        • IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

          hee hee, Are you saying we don't suffer? We do, haven't you? I am sorry to say if you haven't had suffering, then you will. reality sucks!

          July 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
        • skytag

          @IHAVESEENT THELIGHT: "hee hee, Are you saying we don't suffer? We do, haven't you? I am sorry to say if you haven't had suffering, then you will. reality sucks!"

          Are you pathologically incapable of understanding even the simplest, most obvious points? This response to hee hee's comment is about the dumbest thing I've ever read.

          He was pointing out that believers have been interpreting natural disasters and other phenomenon as evidence the end is just around the corner for hundreds of years. And that point was about as obvious as points get.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
        • skytag

          "To other posters who think I'm rude: yes, I could be a bit less patronizing, but this guy is delighting in the thought of our suffering. You want me to be nice about it?"

          No problem. I don't suffer fools gladly either. But I don't think he delights at suffering, he's just getting excited at the thought of Jesus returning in his lifetime to validate a lifetime of believing in fairytales.

          I have a very nice CD titled "1000: A Mass for the End of Time." It's a collection of religious music written towards the end of the first millennium in honor of the end of time coming in the year 1000.

          July 29, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
        • hee hee

          @skytag: thanks for clarifying my point. I don't even understand IHAVEN'T...'s response.

          I don't know, I could be wrong about Mike's delight in my suffering. I think of course there are multiple feelings, one of them being the excitement you talk about... but part of it seems to me to be delight in the idea of being finally proven right, and seeing others suffer because of their mistake. Talk about the ultimate vindication!

          Anyway, maybe I have misjudged him. I still don't think that my response was out of line. (him: Admit I'm right or you're going to be left behind... me: read some history and get a grip there, guy.) Once it sinks to that level, what are you left with? What can I say, except "consider reading"?

          July 30, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
        • hee hee

          @skytag: Actually I can spell it out a bit more clearly. He says, in different words: "This is my position. Take it or leave it." And I more or less say the same: "I can't help seeing that position as silly. Take it or leave it". His comment was pretty final.

          I'm practicing, in a way. I want to know what statements can disarm people enough that they get outside themselves for just a second and absorb some little bit of a new viewpoint. This is hard. I have no good answers. One thing is for sure, I've had enough philosophical discussions about religion that all go along exactly the same lines, and end with the same line drawn in the sand. So lately I've been starting at the line. I suppose that looks less diplomatic, but I don't think it is. It just looks that way superficially.

          I'm very interested in Daniel Dennett's approach. No idea if it is effective, but it's different and fresh.

          p.s. thanks for the tip about the CD. Very nice concept.

          July 30, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • Bob

      Um... I see that glow of excitement in non-Christians' eyes too when a catastrophe strikes. It's not because we think "Jesus is Comming". Duh! It's because we living an everything's sensationalized, media obsessed society. Natural disasters, genocide, and the like are only there for our entertainment..... at least that is what the 24-hour-news networks would have you believe.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  10. 1word

    God is real! So if I never visited a country, and I never seen the people who lived in that country; does it mean they don't exist? They exist, its just that I never seen them. The children of the Devil will never see God, because they are blind to his existence. Once they come to know the truth, they will see him.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Provide reliable evidence that your god is real or stop your lying.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:27 am |
      • 1word

        Honey Badger Don't Care
        As a Child of God I cannot lie. I have to tell the truth. My God hates liars. After becoming born again, it's against my nature to lie.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:29 am |
        • skytag

          Poor deluded creature.

          July 29, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      You are missing one very larger aspect. Those people CAN be PROVEN to be real. You CAN go see them, you CAN see video of them. There is physical evidence…so on and so forth. You’re emperors cloths analogy is a fail. Try again.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:28 am |
      • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

        Apologies for my more typing skills and grammar. I’m currently on a mobile device and typing on the go.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • skytag

      "So if I never visited a country, and I never seen the people who lived in that country; does it mean they don't exist? They exist, its just that I never seen them."

      Kind of like leprechauns and vampires, right? More evidence religion makes people stupid.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • tony

      but they are on facebook

      July 29, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Steve

      The difference here is that we CAN travel to another country to PROVE that there are people there. We can take pictures, record video, have them write or paint something to bring back EVIDENCE. Let me know when you can do this with your god, then maybe you might have an argument.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Jeff

      This is a ridiculously inept and shallow anology. I grew up in a conservative evangelical Christian family and attended a well-regarded Christian college so I'm very well versed in Christian culture and thinking. Christians like to think their beliefs are so rock solid and that their way of thinking is so far superior and logical compared to "the world" but they are really deluding themselves. The whole culture is about self-affirming their beliefs and not allowing real critical thinking, especially outside thinking. They fear doubt and have created an entire sub-culture around denying reality.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  11. Jim

    Article is partially correct. While demoniational churches have seen a decline in attendance, Multi deminational churches have seen a larg increase in membership, and many young people are flocking to these churches

    July 29, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  12. gordon

    Very good article. There has to be a balance of Grace and Truth. The Bible is God's word and life plan for us. It has the ulitimate authority in my life. But I know that we are all sinners in one form or another. We are to continue to work on our stuff to live a life that is pleasing to God. We do that as a form or worship but also because the Creator knows what is best for us. Growing up in the church and also graduating from Bible College I know that religiions ( that are man made) like to pick and choose what they want to decide is the "top 5 sins". All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Maybe we should work on pulling out the plank in our own eyes before worring about the speck in our brothers. After all, "they will know we are Christians by our love".

    July 29, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • skytag

      "There has to be a balance of Grace and Truth."

      And what would that balance be if there is no God?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  13. DSUTrojan

    I'm 36 and this entire article is spot-on with respect to how I feel regarding the topic.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  14. Steve

    As a 30-year-old atheist who was raised Catholic, I have come to the realization over time that the unbelievable and supernatural facets of religion are nothing more than human creations of our own minds. The idea of a soul that exists beyond death is ridiculous. All that you/we are as individuals is in the electrical impulses in your brain. When your brain ceases to function and send those electrical impulses you cease to exist. Without consciousness we are nothing. Try going into surgery (I have been through this 3 times) where they put you to "sleep" to perform the surgery. When you "wake up" yo will have no recollection of what has transpired. You did not feel anything, you did not hear anything, you did not taste, you did not see, you did not dream, you were not even aware of the fact that you were asleep. For all purposes, you did not exist from your own point of view because your brain activity has been slowed to a point that you have lost all consciousness. This is the closest thing we can "experience" to death without actually dying. I put experience in quotes because you did not really experience anything which is exactly what death is, the complete loss of experience. Without the brain, there is no you. Therefore there is no soul because if it does exist, it exists in the brain and it needs to brain to be sustained. So without a soul and life after death, all religious promises are null and void. Science gives us observable facts, religion gives us empty promises without any way to prove its truthfulness.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Grant

      Whether or not you believe in God, you must believe this: when we as a species abandon our trust in a power greater than us, we abandon our sense of accountability. Faiths… all faiths… are admonitions that there is something we cannot understand, something to which we are accountable. With faith we are accountable to each other, to ourselves, and to a higher truth. Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed. The church consists of a brotherhood of imperfect, simple souls wanting only to be a voice of compassion in a world spinning out of control. Faith is universal. Our specific methods for understanding it are arbitrary. Some of us pray to Jesus, some of us go to Mecca, some of us study subatomic particles. In the end we are all just searching for truth, that which is greater than ourselves.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:27 am |
      • skytag

        "Whether or not you believe in God, you must believe this: when we as a species abandon our trust in a power greater than us, we abandon our sense of accountability."

        I do not have to believe this malarkey. We are accountable to the society in which we live, the same as any specie that forms social groups. A main purpose of religions is to encourage people to be better members of society. Promises of rewards, threats of punishments, and fairytales about an all-seeing God are there to keep people in line.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:36 am |
        • IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

          Skytag...I am sure that the people in Somalia and Indonesia and Burma and so on have a real problem with society setting the acceptable behavior. Have you studied world history at all...what an ignorant post.

          July 29, 2013 at 10:47 am |
        • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

          IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

          Actually he right. The societies of the places you mention are set and enforced by those who live there. The fact that they are hell holes are the result of those people and their primitive culture. In fact… if YOU studied more history you would know that the more hellish places are earth are also the most religious.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:09 am |
        • IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

          Skytag you are simply wrong....I am a teacher by the way.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:11 am |
      • skytag

        @IHAVESEENT THELIGHT: "Skytag you are simply wrong...."

        Wow, what a compelling argument. Did you learn that in debate class?

        You can deny reality if you need to do that to prop up your delusions, but what I said is accurate. It's not only true in human societies, it's all true some animal species that form social groups. Self preservation is the strongest instinct of all, and in social groups it extends to the preservation of the society. As members of societies we have an instinctual obligation to conduct ourselves in a manner that promotes the survival and advancement of the society in which we live.

        "I am a teacher by the way."

        In argumentation theory this would be known as an appeal to authority. When I taught in college I taught many who would become teachers, and some of them were not very bright. Being a teacher does not bolster the credibility of your opinions.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • George

      Talk about naive.... You cannot prove any more of what you believe that what a Christian believes. You cannot compare surgery to death. What happens if you die on the table? Then you are dead and now it is a different outcome. But none of the things you say can prove what truly happens after death. But I can assure you of one thing... you will find out in the end. If I am right, I have a lot to look forward to, if you are right neither of us have anything to look forward to, and if you are wrong... you might have some disappointment in store for you. Good luck with those odds. Oh, and I do have some inside information that I am right. Have a great day!

      July 29, 2013 at 10:29 am |
      • Damocles

        Awwww, c'mon! You say you have inside information and then just leave us all hanging?? Share.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:38 am |
      • skytag

        "You cannot prove any more of what you believe that what a Christian believes."

        It's true that we cannot force you to see you're living a lie.

        "But I can assure you of one thing... you will find out in the end."

        Nope. When you die, that's it. Sadly, atheists will not have the opportunity to come up to you after death and say "I told you so."

        "If I am right, I have a lot to look forward to, if you are right neither of us have anything to look forward to"

        If we are right you've devoted much or all of your life to myths, fairytales and lies. Obviously that possibility doesn't concern you.

        "and if you are wrong... you might have some disappointment in store for you. Good luck with those odds."

        Actually, the odds are on the atheists' side if we base them at all on facts, evidence, reason and logic.

        "Oh, and I do have some inside information that I am right. Have a great day!"

        Sure you do. And so have billions of people over the course of history, most of whom don't share your view of God, heaven, or anything else.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:45 am |
      • Steve

        Actually science has proven that every memory you have and every thought that runs through your mind is nothing but electrical impulses. In fact science has proven that preventing these impulses causes the loss of memory or motor function. Your brain contains all that you are, your past, your present, your future. Take away the brain and there is no you, hence the term, brain dead. Why do you think family members decide to pull the plug on their loved ones in comas? It is because being brain dead is NOT living. It is closer to death than to alive. When you are dead, you cannot even realize that fact because you have no brain function to do any rational thinking to say, "hey I must be dead". You won't even know it once your brain stops.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:48 am |
        • IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

          http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/10/07/proof-of-heaven-a-doctor-s-experience-with-the-afterlife.html
          Read it or not, a scientist, who was an atheist...from Harvard. But I am sure he is a liar too...or you will find some other reason a former atheist changes his mind...I am sure he is in it for the money.

          July 29, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  15. Joe

    A few years ago you weren't considered a GenX-er. It's only been in the last few years that the definition of Generation X was expanded to include more than those of us born from '69 to '78. That's why you relate to Generation Y more than Generation X. Because you are Generation Y.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:14 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.