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July 30th, 2013
02:17 PM ET

Why are millennials leaving church? Try atheism

Opinion by Hemant Mehta, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Articles and books about why millennials are leaving Christianity often focus on what churches are doing "wrong."

They're anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science, anti-sex-education and anti-doubt, 
to name a few of the most common criticisms.

I don't disagree with those critiques, but there's another side to the story.

While Christians have played sloppy defense, secular Americans have been showing off some impressive offense, giving young Christians plenty of reasons to lose faith in organized religion.

For instance, atheists dominate the Internet, rallying to thriving websites and online communities in lieu of physical meeting spaces.

Even a writer for the evangelical magazine Relevant admitted that “While Christianity enjoys a robust online presence, the edge still seems to belong to its unbelievers.”

Atheists outnumber Christians on popular discussion forums like Reddit, where subscribers to the atheism section number more than 2 million. The Christianity section is not even 5% of that.

The Internet-based Foundation Beyond Belief, which encourages atheists to donate to charitable organizations, just celebrated raising $1 million for worthwhile causes. (Disclosure: I serve on its board of directors.)

Moreover, blogs and websites espousing non-religious viewpoints and criticizing Christianity draw tons of Internet traffic these days. For every Christian apologist's argument, it seems, there's an equal and opposite rebuttal to be found online. I call that "Hitchens' Third Law.”

READ MORE: Why millennials are leaving the church 

Christians can no longer hide in a bubble, sheltered from opposing perspectives, and church leaders can't protect young people from finding information that contradicts traditional beliefs.

If there's an open comment thread to be found on a Christian's YouTube video or opinion piece online, there's inevitably going to be pushback from atheists.

There has also been a push by atheists to get non-religious individuals to "come out of the closet" and let people know that they don't believe in God.

Among other things, this proves that anti-atheist stereotypes aren't accurate and, just as important, that atheists aren’t alone in their communities.

There's the Richard Dawkins Foundation's Out Campaign, with its Scarlet A badges.

There are atheist-encouraging billboards in 33 states financed by groups like the United Coalition of Reason.

There's even going to be an 1-800 hot line for people "recovering" from religion.

READ MORE: Atheists to start 1-800 hot line for doubters

And last year, an estimated 20,000 atheists turned out for the Reason Rally in Washington, a tenfold increase from the previous atheist rally in 2002.

But more than anything else, atheism's best advertisements may be the words of Christian leaders themselves.

When Pastor Mark Driscoll belittles women, Rick Warren argues against same-sex rights or Rob Bell equivocates on the concept of hell, we amplify those messages for them - and it helps us make our point.

(It goes without saying that the pairing of Pat Robertson and YouTube has been great for atheists.)

Pastors are no longer the final authority on the truth, and millennials know it.

Even if they hold Jesus' message in high esteem, the Bible as it has traditionally been preached by many evangelical pastors is becoming less and less attractive to them.

A 2012 study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PDF) showed that many Christians aged 18-24 felt that Christianity was hypocritical (49%), judgmental (54%) and anti-gay (58%).

In addition, Christianity Today reported last year that fewer than half of born-again Christians under 35 opposed same-sex marriage.

When millennials' pastors and hearts are going in different directions, church leaders should be worried.

Can churches win back the youth?

Barring a complete shift in beliefs, that may not be possible. Some of the proposed solutions seem ludicrous to millennial atheists like myself.

For instance, there's been talk of finding a better way to reconcile science and religion. Whenever that battle takes place, religion loses.

There are some questions we may never know the answer to, but for the ones we can eventually answer, the scientific explanation will devour the religious one. Mixing science and religion requires a distortion of one or the other.

READ MORE: Behold, the six tribes of atheism 

What about focusing on the message and life of Jesus?

While this sounds good philosophically, the myth surrounding Jesus is part of the problem with Christianity.

To believe in Jesus means believing that he was born of a virgin, rose from the dead and performed a number of miracles.

There's no proof of any of that ever happened, and atheists place those stories in the same box as "young Earth creationism" and Noah's Great Flood.

To be sure, if Christians followed the positive ideas Jesus had, we'd all be better off, but it's very hard to separate the myth from the reality.

In short, there are many reasons the percentage of millennials who say they've never doubted God's existence is at a record low, and nearly a quarter of adults under 30 no longer affiliate with a faith.

The church has pushed young people away, yes, but there are also forces actively pulling them in the other direction.

It appears that atheists and Christians are finally working together on the same task: getting millennials to leave the church.

Hemant Mehta blogs at The Friendly Atheist. The views expressed in this column belong to Mehta. 

Photos: Famous atheists and their beliefs

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Church • Culture & Science • Faith • Internet • Nones • Opinion • Science • United States

soundoff (5,653 Responses)
  1. Meddle

    I think that a lot of people don't stop to consider just how they might go about establishing their own religion as opposed to throwing in with any of the established organized religions. If you stop to think about it, it seems very unlikely that there are many individuals out there that can truly say they believe and accept 100% of the teachings of any organized faith. I would think that if people were more open to exploring just how their personal version of whatever faith they choose to practice actually differs from the hard facts of said faith, they might realize that it's actually not all that difficult to define a religion of YOU. One idea that has always jumped out at me when listening to Christian sermons is the idea that you need to establish your own relationship with God. This is a profoundly important idea! If people would stop and really think about how they might incorporate this one simple idea into their faith, they would hopefully realize that it is not necessary to waste time defending what a given religion's beliefs are. The point I'm trying to make here is that it's OK to have your own ideas while still identifying to some degree with the teachings of a given faith. If more people would realize this and incorporate it into their faith it might make the idea of organized religion a lot easier to swallow for those of us that are on a different page.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • thomas

      "One idea that has always jumped out at me when listening to Christian sermons is the idea that you need to establish your own relationship with God"

      ...been there, done that... it's what St. Thomas said.

      Actual his view was that we could have the same relationship with God as Jesus did, but you can see how that leads to all kinds of complications in a hierarchical church and Roman empire. Thown out of the bible - damn!

      July 31, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  2. Randy

    God's Word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His principles do not follow the fads and whims of society.

    But keep preaching unbelief, Hell's only half full.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      So what, now Hell has a maximum capacity?

      July 31, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Sam

      This author has no credibility. He passes his thoughts off as fact, when many of them are not even opinions but rather blatant lies based off of ignorance. He is a very bitter person who needs to be of neutrality is he wants any credibility.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:53 am |
      • Hilikus

        I like how you didn't even show one example...lol

        July 31, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • ReligionIsBS

      So slavery is still cool with god? Exodus 21:20-21. Your god seems like a jerk. I would pass even if I did beleive in him.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:56 am |
      • thomas

        It's a mixed bag. There are spots against it too.

        Actually though many in the North went down to the South knowing that if they didn't, they would have a place in their community because the prevailing religious view was you gotta go and do the Christian thing for those people. Know your family history!

        July 31, 2013 at 9:00 am |
        • ReligionIsBS

          So there are spots against it and spots for it? And god doesnt change his mind? LOL. YOu people crack me up.

          July 31, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • thomas

      ...but suddenly the pope says gay priests are ok ...

      oh wait the pope is not a real Christian

      ... oh then you seem like a coptic Christian similar to what St. Thomas wrote about

      ... oh by St. Thomas was left out of the bible because the Roman emperor made a deal with the church and the hierarchical view will be the Roman approved of one

      Ok so we are at the Which God do you mean conversation again... Christian? Hindu? Other? Explain that... oh yours is the right one though. I see.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • Bob

      "His principles do not follow the fads and whims of society." Yet somehow most of our churches no longer preach on the biblical virtue of slavery, or silence of women, or putting disobedient children to death. I think those principles do follow the fads and whims of society a little more than you're willing to admit.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Gadflie

      Randy, I recommend you take a reading for comprehension class and then read both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Then think about why your statement is laughable.

      July 31, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • J Ryan

      The good thing about hell is there will be no christian or other righteous religious fanatics there. Sounds like heaven to me.

      July 31, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • ssprince1

      God said in the 400 yr old bible that you should sacrifice your son. He also said that women were third class citizens that could be treated like dirt. 8."Then God said: 'Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you'."(Genesis 22:2) "do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet." (1 Timothy 2:12)"; 2."Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses." (1 Samuel 15:3)10."Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse." (1 Peter 2:18)

      July 31, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'His principles do not follow the fads and whims of society'

      Thats true because society has the principle that killing people is wrong and the god of the OT certainly has no problem with killing people, or his followers doing it for him.

      July 31, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  3. dragonfire0477

    Christians have only themselves to blame for their falling membership. If they want 'followers', they need to give people a reason to follow.
    A heavy handed 'you must do everything our way, whether you believe or not' approach is not going to garner a lot of attention and will garner NO sympathy when people start turning away.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  4. MikeMongo

    The lack of spiritual awareness/understanding in this article, and on this message board, is astounding. More significantly disturbing is the apparent domincance of a myopic US pop-culture theology of the issues being commented on.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Joe

      This is a very common occurrence on the internet, especially on a biased and misinformed article on atheism. The author, and the posters clearly lack any understanding of Christian literature and ideologies. Atheist will never be taken seriously because they refuse to accept that their thoughts are a BELIEF, not a fact. Christians live a life of faith, but atheists live a life of lies in lack of irrefutable evidence.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:49 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Is aSkeletorism a belief?

        July 31, 2013 at 8:51 am |
      • thomas

        no my thoughts are re-evaluated for correctness

        a BELIEF ignore contrary evidence

        did you go to school much?

        July 31, 2013 at 8:51 am |
      • Gadflie

        Joe, that's called observer bias. Just because you disagree with atheism doesn't mean that their point of view isn't legitimate. Sorry to burst your ignorance bubble kid.

        July 31, 2013 at 9:03 am |
      • Walt

        What evidence??????

        July 31, 2013 at 9:04 am |
      • mk

        Joe, I'm betting there are more than a few ex-christians on here who, like me (a 30+ year ex-catholic), understand completely what being a christian is all about. That is why they are now atheists. Once you start questioning some of the bizarre concepts, it all falls apart.

        July 31, 2013 at 9:13 am |
        • Dave L

          mk: I'm one of those ex-christians. I was raised as a catholic, and at the age of 24 I joined a baptist church where I stayed for 20 years. It goes without saying that I've read the bible multiple times in addition to studying a substantial amount of Greek and Hebrew simply to better understand the original text. My disdain with religion began when I realized the large number of contradictions along with having ill feelings about watching fellow members push the christian faith on unwilling parites. My career for the past 26 years has been in biology, which brought out a phethora of questions and issues with my fellow church members. There is such an abundant amount of evidence supporting evolution, particularily with bacteria and viruses that are evolving (or mutating if you prefer the alternate) right in front of our eyes. Dr. Lenski has more than 20,000 generations of bacteria that have evolved from glucose thriving to acidic acid thriving as evidence. All this combined I had to be honest with myself and admit that god is man made. I beleive there are a lot more like myself still participating in religion simply out of fear of social ostasization. There is a tremendous amount of peer pressure from the christian community to stay connected to a church.

          July 31, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        'The author, and the posters clearly lack any understanding of Christian literature and ideologies'
        In what way? Give us an example.

        'Christians live a life of faith, but atheists live a life of lies in lack of irrefutable evidence'
        So how come christians live with faith but you dont claim atheists do even though you want to claim they also have a 'belief'? Double standard much?

        July 31, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • thomas

      so tell me I am wrong -

      god is merely the mis-application of human's social ability – namely to infer intent and expectations of others – to try to explain the natural world.

      when we can't explain nature, we create a being and talk about intent and expectations of that being

      it calms people in the face of uncertainty

      well unfortunately different flavors of GOD don't always go so well together ...

      anyway, it's not that religious people are against their brains, it's more that they use their hardwired ability to function in a social world to explain the natural one – thus turning their brains off.

      Yeah god's intent by having an earthquake in Haiti was what? You hear religious people talking about it don't you? What else would explain the earthquake. Still, it's not anti-thinking – it's trying to overuse social

      July 31, 2013 at 8:50 am |
  5. creative36

    You can't

    July 31, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  6. Andrew

    There is a reason thatt here are no Atheist churches, Atheists don't need a weekly reminder of how to think, who to hate, who will go to heaven or hell, etc....

    July 31, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Andrew

      Atheism is a belief. They hate much more than the religious to try and force their ideologies on others, something they claim to resent. As an atheist, I know this is not an effective way of preaching to get others to conform.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:39 am |
      • Lovecrafty

        Atheism is a belief like baldness is a hair color...

        July 31, 2013 at 8:40 am |
        • PeteH

          Indeed? You believe there is no God. That, my friend, is belief.

          July 31, 2013 at 8:51 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          You believe there is no zombie ninja who plays badminton while fighting crime on planet Hard Knockers Are An Inherhent Trait Of Exercise. Is that a belief?

          July 31, 2013 at 8:56 am |
        • ReligionIsBS

          And you dont beleive that there is a purple flying elephant orbiting the moon. Does that make you a beleiver?

          Do you not collect stamps? Is not collecting stamps your hobby? You dont beleive in the hindu gods. Does that make a beleiver?

          Why is it so hard for you people to understand logic?

          July 31, 2013 at 8:58 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Is aSkeletorism a belief?

        July 31, 2013 at 8:41 am |
      • joe

        Atheism is a belief like not playing baseball is a sport.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:46 am |
      • watergirl

        This is why Christians lose the fight. Instead of educating yourselves, you take whatever is the latest rebuttal from religious websites that is repeated by converters over and over and over. This is the same sad arguement used against evolution. It is a paltry attempt at reverse psychology that if you think you tell evolutionists and non believers that it is a church also, they will turn against it.
        But most athiests and "evolutionists" are far more educated than their religious counterparts (there are a few exceptions) that they can see through this.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:52 am |
      • sandalista

        If Atheism is a belief, not collecting stamps is a hobby and not playing tennis is a sport.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:53 am |
      • mk

        Andrew, what is that religion called where you don't believe in gnomes? I forget...

        July 31, 2013 at 9:16 am |
        • UncleBenny

          Agnomism?

          July 31, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        'They hate much more than the religious to try and force their ideologies on others,'

        Show us one instance where they are trying to force atheism on someone. We will wait.

        July 31, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Unfortunately, there are atheist churches (well, there's one I know of in the UK). Atheist groups also seem to descend into the self-congratulatory circle-jerk mentality of Christian groups/churches.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:40 am |
      • Hilikus

        Out of curiosity...how do you know?

        Have you sat in and witnessed this, or are you just casting a stone?

        I don't belong to any atheist "church", but the two I know of in my area are charity based. Call them evil circle jerkers if you want...but what does that make you?

        July 31, 2013 at 9:07 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I didn't say evil. I'm an atheist, I don't believe in evil.

          Yes, I went to an atheist community group meeting once. It was exactly as I described; a self-congratulatory circle-jerk.

          July 31, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • Gypsy

      Atheism is a CONCLUSION, not a belief.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:51 am |
      • Andrew

        BAM! Served

        July 31, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • CosmicC

      Many atheists do need a social community like that provided by a church. We attend various venues for this purpose, be it a dogmatic, theist church, an open accepting society, like Unitarian Universalists, or a purely atheist organization like the Ethical Culture society. Keep in mind that liberal churches are often the source of social change (emancipation, women's sufferage, civil rights, etc.). Such organizations are a source of social good, so before we throw out the old, let's make sure we have something that's a valid replacement. After all, I don't see everyone joining the Union of Concerned Scientists, much less getting the religious right to join with them in any way.

      July 31, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  7. Joe

    It is one this to express opinions while viewing it from a neutral viewpoint, it is a far different thing to blatantly express one's own biased opinions based off of misinformation. This article was clearly written by a frustrated atheist, who needs to be more truthful if he wants to be taken seriously. This whole blog is a farce.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Andrew

      It's a blog/opinion bro, get over it.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • reyn

      Could you please identify which peices were untruthful?

      July 31, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'it is a far different thing to blatantly express one's own biased opinions based off of misinformation'

      tell that to every christian.

      July 31, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Ernest T Bass

      Misinformation = the bible

      July 31, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  8. devin

    If nothing else, atheism is one of the great ironies of life. That otherwise intelligent individuals adamantly state "there is no God" ( I'm referring here to strong atheism) is beyond the realm of nonsensical.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      I agree that making statements of absolute certainty isn't entirely correct, but one has to make the same distinction with statements of absolute certainty regarding the existence of Skeletor.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:35 am |
      • devin

        And if the time comes when I start believing in Skeletor, I will make that distinction.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:40 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          No, you should make the distinction regardless of whether you believe or not. To only make the distinction with things you believe in is intellectually dishonest.

          July 31, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • ReligionIsBS

      How would it be ignorant to not beleive in something that has no evidence? I dont think you know what ignorant means.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:37 am |
      • Joe

        Intelligent minds can appreciate that the most complex things in the universe can be of impossibility to prove. God is beyond our understanding. for us to judge him and make false claims is utterly incompetent.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:41 am |
      • ReligionIsBS

        How do you know god is beyond your understanding? Wouldnt that be impossible for you to understand. And it takes a pretty gullible person to beleive that. "Oh, my religion doesnt make any sense? Well, it isnt supposed to!"

        LOL

        July 31, 2013 at 9:01 am |
        • ReligionIsBS

          And no, intelligent people do not think that anything that is real is impossible to prove. If that were true, there wouldnt be any scientists.

          July 31, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • joe

      That otherwise intelligent individuals adamantly state "there is no God" ( I'm referring here to strong atheism) is beyond the realm of nonsensical.
      ----------
      You know when someone's uneducated and religious because they state conclusions with no supporting evidence as if it's some kind of authority.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:38 am |
      • reyn

        I have many atheist friends and none of them say they know there is no god. Atheism is a lack of a beleif in a god or gods.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • reyn

      I know of no atheists who say that they know that there is no god.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:52 am |
      • devin

        Hang out on this forum a few minutes,

        July 31, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • JLS639

      There are no gods. There is no God. There are no leprechauns. There are no dragons. There is no Fenris. There are no unicorns. I don't have to prove any of these completely made-up things don't exist to say them with 100% confidence. The fact that some believed or even continue to believe they exist is irrelevant.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:58 am |
      • devin

        You could add Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to your list, but it would still be irrelevant to the existence of God. The variable here is that there is evidence for a designer/creator being, those other characters you listed, not so much.

        July 31, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • Truth Prevails :-)

          What evidence outside of your bible?

          July 31, 2013 at 9:24 am |
        • cedar rapids

          No, there is no evidence for a creator. What you have instead is you assign events to a god and claim it proves him.

          July 31, 2013 at 9:27 am |
        • Deflator

          Could you please elaborate on this evidence, using overwhelming observations in the form of empirical data that can withstand peer review?

          July 31, 2013 at 9:29 am |
        • devin

          Deflator

          I simply disagree with your premise that evidence be defined as that which is quantifiable and "peer reviewed". That is your own construct. The entire universe SCREAMS evidence of a creator/being, you have just made the conscious decision to deny it.

          July 31, 2013 at 9:35 am |
        • Deflator

          Devin

          Wouldn't it have been easier to simply type "I can't provide this."?

          July 31, 2013 at 9:48 am |
        • cedar rapids

          'I simply disagree with your premise that evidence be defined as that which is quantifiable and "peer reviewed". That is your own construct. '
          Seriously? You want 'evidence' to be anything you claim as evidence and you dont need to have it provable?

          'The entire universe SCREAMS evidence of a creator/being, you have just made the conscious decision to deny it.'
          Again, you have just assigned that 'evidence' to a god and claimed it proves him. I could do the same thing and claim it proves the existance of a purple pixie call nigel that lives under the presidents desk and can only be seen on the night of a full moon if someone says the right chant.

          July 31, 2013 at 9:50 am |
        • devin

          Deflator
          It would have been were that the case. Seeing that it's not, it wouldn't have been.

          July 31, 2013 at 10:20 am |
        • Deflator

          Devin

          Thank you very much for sharing the evidence you reference in your original post. Well done!

          July 31, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  9. The Milkman

    Atheists didn't cause the exodus from organized religion among millenials or anyone else. The hyper-religious did it to themselves, through their prejudice, hypocrisy, and false piety.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • joe

      It's not just hyper-religious as you call them. It's all religious.

      Religion is intellectually unsustainable. It's primitive.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:33 am |
      • Glenn Parker

        Being a reality-denying buffoon isn't entirely new, but it is in fashion.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:40 am |
      • thomas

        you don't understand religion ... it is the artifact of human sociability...

        god is merely the mis-application of human's social ability – namely to infer intent and expectations of others – to try to explain the natural world.

        when we can't explain nature, we create a being and talk about intent and expectations of that being

        it calms people in the face of uncertainty

        well unfortunately different flavors of GOD don't always go so well together ...

        anyway, it's not that religious people are against their brains, it's more that they use their hardwired ability to function in a social world to explain the natural one - thus turning their brains off.

        Yeah god's intent by having an earthquake in Haiti was what? You hear religious people talking about it don't you? What else would explain the earthquake. Still, it's not anti-thinking - it's trying to overuse social

        July 31, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  10. SuZieCoyote

    When The Church dies, and it will, all people will be valued and free to love a God who doesn't discriminate on the basis of color, gender or orientation. The choice isn't between Christianity and Atheism, it is between a brutal war God who takes sides and a God that values all His/Her children.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Mark

      God does not discriminate, it is his followers who are prone to that. And the Church will not die, at least nowhere near your lifetime. Christianity is thriving in many parts of the world, and that is a good thing.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Tell that to the Midianites and the Canaanites. And don't forget Sodom and Gomorrah.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • joe

      and free to love a God
      ------
      Why would a God need or want love? A God would be all knowing and all powerful right? It would have invented love, right so it already knows love.

      And why would a human need or want to love a God?

      Such primitive ideas.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Paul

      Christian religion is a religion of a loving God. "Gospel" means "good news". The good news is that God gave his son to re-establish a relationship with us because he loves us. That is the foundation of Christian faith. The problem lies in people basing their opinion of God on the works of men and woman. Every Atheist I have encountered, is so because they have endured themselves (or someone close to them) a horrible experience and then qualifies that within, "how could a loving God let that happen".
      We live in a finite universe. the universe had a beginning. therefore it had a creator. we can debate the particulars of that creator. However, to believe that we are hear by a cosmic accident is a mathematical impossibility and had to be the result of an intelligent mind. Atheism is a faith based on much less empirical evidence than Christianity.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:44 am |
      • joe

        The good news is that God gave his son to re-establish a relationship with us because he loves us.
        -----–
        God molests a 12 year old virgin and pushes Itself out into the world, then disappears for 30 years then shows up lecturing for a short period then kills itself, then comes back to a handful of unknowns to prove It's really God then disappears again, all for the stated purpose of lifting the curse that It put on man because woman ate from a fruit tree that God put in front of her and knew she would eat from before she did.

        Right. Makes perfect sense.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:54 am |
      • reyn

        Paul, why do you claim that we live in a finite universe? Atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods, there is no emperical evidence to show that there is such a thing so it is really the only honest way to be. It requires no faith to be an atheist, it's a lack of faith that makes you one, by definition.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:56 am |
      • watergirl

        I can assure you that it is an impossibility to think that an invisible person created the Earth for their own amusement than it simply coming out of collision. I would put my money on random collision each and every time.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:59 am |
      • sandalista

        Then who created a god or gods? Why is the universe as we know it a dead mass of matter and toxic gases? Why is only 10% of the Earth habitable? Why do children die of cancer? Would you worship the same god if you were born in Baghdad? Why were we 'created' with an appendix, our aorta is 8 times as long as needed, our eyes are inside out and many other nonsensical features? If god is omnipotent, why not defeat the devil? If we have free will, why are we threatened with ETERNAL fire and brimstone if we don't follow the rules? If god loves us so much, why did he kill over 2 million people in the OT (the bible's own numbers)? Why did he drown all life, even the vile Manatees and evil Koalas?
        So many questions, no logical answers. If all else fails, explain it with miracles and god's mysterious ways. What a cop out.

        July 31, 2013 at 9:09 am |
      • cedar rapids

        'Every Atheist I have encountered, is so because they have endured themselves (or someone close to them) a horrible experience and then qualifies that within, "how could a loving God let that happen".

        Then you need to meet more atheists because thats not why i dont believe.

        'We live in a finite universe. the universe had a beginning. therefore it had a creator'

        False logic.

        'However, to believe that we are hear by a cosmic accident is a mathematical impossibility and had to be the result of an intelligent mind.'

        If you know anything about maths then you know that the claim its a mathematical impossibility is a nonsense claim. The later part of your statement is based on that false premise and is simply opinion.

        July 31, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  11. joe

    Christians can no longer hide in a bubble, sheltered from opposing perspectives, and church leaders can't protect young people from finding information that contradicts traditional beliefs.
    ----------
    This is the downfall of not only Christianity but all religion. Information.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Ernest T Bass

      I agree... it is becoming increasingly difficult to spread religious lies when truth proven through evidence is readily available.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  12. Frank

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to save all who repent and believe in Him.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Save from what?

      July 31, 2013 at 8:24 am |
      • Mark

        Turn to Jesus and repent for your sins and you will be granted eternal life with the Lord. It is never too late to repent for your blatant ignorance and live a life with Christ.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:25 am |
        • Lovecrafty

          What if we don't want eternal life and wish to one day be free of conciousness?

          July 31, 2013 at 8:28 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I'm a staunch republican (as in anti-monarchist, not the party), why would I want to spend eternity with a (self-appointed) lord? Aristocrats tend to be pompous, self-important morons.

          July 31, 2013 at 8:29 am |
        • joe

          Your Jesus has never done anything, is not doing anything now and never will do anything in the future.

          Your Jesus hides, while the most uneducated and ignorant in society do His bidding.

          July 31, 2013 at 8:29 am |
        • thomas

          just light the fire and stick me in it but I tell you what ... if your call goes off the ditch and you are stuck in the snow I don't care if you have Jesus on your rearview mirror or dash... I'll help you out anyway

          you don't need to help me though, just let me burn for having done nothing wrong. my conscious shall be my salvation

          July 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
        • CosmicC

          A truely loving god would provide universal salvation without precondition.

          July 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
        • Andrew

          Judge much?

          July 31, 2013 at 8:34 am |
        • Mel

          Mark. As a christian your not helping the cause.

          July 31, 2013 at 8:49 am |
        • cedar rapids

          'and you will be granted eternal life with the Lord'

          for what purpose?

          July 31, 2013 at 9:33 am |
        • Ernest T Bass

          eternal life with a being that you fear???

          July 31, 2013 at 11:00 am |
      • kati

        Save you from the consequences of your sins

        July 31, 2013 at 8:37 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I'm completely sinless.

          July 31, 2013 at 8:38 am |
        • Ernest T Bass

          "sin" is a man made concept.... as is everything else in the bible.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Lovecrafty

      So you are saying that we are in some kind of danger? Who put us in this danger? Are we born going to this danger? And how does what my mind believe determine the course of my body? Can someone read my thoughts? If so, does this person know where if I am going to fall into this danger? If so, then I never really had freewill did I?

      July 31, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      There is no reason to believe that is true. None.
      Have you studies the Buddha?
      Much of your christ character came from the Buddha. Look it up.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  13. your a

    atheism reddit was a default sub reddit everyone who joined reddit automatically joined it. further you could not be more out of touch with atheists or theists, spend more than 15 minutes for your 'articles' please

    July 31, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  14. thomas

    Why do religious people want to judge me?

    I am sorry that I like people - too many people to get into heaven by the rules in the bible I think and no I won't repent.

    Why do people have to save me? If there is a problem with my behaviour, I will be sure to correct it.

    I get tremendously annoyed when religious people say I am doing something wrong when I know in my soul, deep down in my soul where I listen for what is good for me that some of the things I do that the religious crowd disapprove of is actually good for me.

    Burn my soul in hell for eternity but I see no reason to repent for not having done anything wrong. I use to make stuff up in the confessional when I was a kid because I couldn't really think of what to say. Anyway, the lord and I have gone different ways but a devil that doesn't mean I am. Not at all.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Mark

      No one is judging you. Yous seem to be doing the very act you resent judging by your questions. It is never to late to follow the Lord.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:26 am |
      • ReligionIsBS

        "It is never too late to repent for your blatant ignorance and live a life with Christ." – Mark, 1 minute before this post.

        But hey, he's not judging you, he's just calling you ignorant. Christian logic everyone! You cant make this kind of stupid up.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:33 am |
      • thomas

        yeah but which Lord... you see my Father says ... and my Jewish friend's say ... and the Muslim's at school think ... and those Zen people are interesting but maybe they don't have a Lord.

        I know you are just a monkey hitting the paste button because you can't think for yourself but ...

        Original sin. Have you heard of it? Yeah I was judged before having done anything wrong.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:34 am |
      • joe

        No one is judging you. Yous seem to be doing the very act you resent judging by your questions. It is never to late to follow the Lord.
        -------
        Really? Is Allah leading you?

        July 31, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  15. Bullgator

    This article really misses the point and couldn't be further from the truth.

    Millennials have not left the church..but rather they have just not found it yet. The truth is that each generation starts out questioning everything around them and that includes religion.

    With each generation it becomes more and more "cool" to be different or the opposite. Until of course that thing becomes the norm. There was a time when grunge was only on college campuses and alternative music could not be heard on the radio.

    More than any other generation of the past, the Millennials have made it cool to be against organized religion or call themselves atheists. I am a Gen X'r with three children and I can tell you that as quickly as the fad rolls in....it rolls back out again. As with generations in the past, once they find themselves and have the confidence to no longer be sheep and follow the heard, then you will see the percentage of millennials that identify with religion increase significantly. I can say that I am already observing this trend. Currently it just isn't cool to be to the right in politics or religious.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • ReligionIsBS

      People arent atheist because they think its cool, they're atheist because they dont beleive your bs. Its hard for you to understand that, because you still beleive in bs.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:35 am |
      • SimpleLogic

        Athiesm is simply the rejection of God. If you say you do not believe in God, then that is your choice. Ever heard of the narrow path? That is simply what we're seeing today. You have Christians and then christians. There is a difference between a believer and someone pretending. We're simply seeing the pretenders skitter off to something else which catches their attention. It's not a matter of viciousness or anger. Most people are going to hell, most people do not want a God, and most people will find those two previous comments confrontational. They are simply fact. While the previous "fact" statement will raise athiests ire, it doesn't matter. They have their opinion, which I believe is obsurd, and I have mine. They have their "facts," I have mine. It's simply a matter of what you choose to believe.

        July 31, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • Truth Prevails :-)

          When you state that most people are going to hell but yet fail to provide the evidence that hell exists, you don't have facts you merely have your own opinion. What type of person see's good in the apparent eternal torture of people?

          July 31, 2013 at 9:21 am |
        • cedar rapids

          'Athiesm is simply the rejection of God'

          No its not, you cant reject something you dont think exists in the first place.

          July 31, 2013 at 9:37 am |
        • Ernest T Bass

          "facts" require evidence...... when you claim "facts" without evidence you are lying.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • j

      Keep denying it. That'll work.

      You're a fool, grasping at straws, hoping to validate your idiocy through others acting similarly foolish.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Sue

      Interesting that you call the folks trying to be independent thinkers, "sheep."

      July 31, 2013 at 8:42 am |
      • SimpleLogic

        There is nothing independent about being athiest.

        July 31, 2013 at 9:07 am |
      • Jesus Giron

        You are not an independent thinker,you are part of a group and think like the rest of the group.

        July 31, 2013 at 9:15 am |
        • Paul

          As is true of both sides of this debate . . . Well, not really a debate, more a schoolyard tussle. I can't wait for recess.

          July 31, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • joe

      As with generations in the past, once they find themselves and have the confidence to no longer be sheep and follow the heard, then you will see the percentage of millennials that identify with religion increase significantly.
      ---------–
      Funny. Information has killed your religion. It's not coming back. Deal with it.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • rolick

      I disagree, and I think it is dismissive of youth to say that they just do things that are trendy and cool. People do that at every age, not just young people. And then some people have given big issues like this a lot of thought, and have come to their own conclusions, the path that suits them best. So to dimiss those that have really given this their time, thought, research, is demeaning and out of touch. It's kind of like an older person telling a younger person that the music they like is bad, every generation does that to the next, and it's wrong, what they fail to say is, this music in not for me, but it's easier to belittle things that you don't understand or just plain don't like or agree with.

      And I have to say, that I have known many people who have joined orginized religions just to fit in, to be part of a community, they become part of a large more powerful crowd that they respect and feel protected in. They have never read the bible or any other text, they are simply their to feel part of a community. Which is not a bad thing, but you could also dismiss them as doing something that they feel is "cool" and to fit in.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • steve5777

      Bullgator, you're right – though I'm not sure it's a good thing. Much of my generation (so-called baby boomers) also went through the "Oh, we're too well-informed to believe in a god" phase. Personally, I'm far happier being a spiritual person, free of religion. But that's just me. 🙂

      July 31, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'once they find themselves and have the confidence to no longer be sheep and follow the heard, then you will see the percentage of millennials that identify with religion increase significantly.'

      76% of the US claim to be christian. Tell us again, who are the sheep following the herd?

      July 31, 2013 at 9:35 am |
      • Bullgator

        Too everyone above that responded to my original post:

        This is not a phenomenon that is exclusive to religion. It is a psychological and social phenomenon in which you could insert any number of issues big or small.

        When we are in our youth it is "cool" to reject everything and healthy to do so I might add. We believe the world turns on love alone and that we never need any more money than what we have in our pockets. We didn't wear seatbelts in the car, helmets on our bikes...etc. etc.

        But as we age, we also begin to accept some of those things that we once fought. For whatever reason, religion is one of those items. There have actually been studies done on this very subject that show just the opposite of what the gentlemen in this article tries to portray. That is, that scientists and intellectuals actually tend to become more religious with time. It has to do with the fact that as we ask more questions and get more answers there becomes a point when we have to consider and start to believe that the only way in which these miracles we discover can actually occur is if there is a higher power at the center of it all.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          sorry but to try to claim that people are atheists because its cool to be so is ridiculous.
          I would say in my case I am becoming more convinced in my atheism as i get older, not less.

          July 31, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
        • Hilikus

          The older people get, the more they try to come to grips with mortality.

          What better way than to "believe" you will live on in eternal bliss.....

          August 1, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  16. Frank

    Interesting enough, most atheist are ignorant of the Word of God that they so often misquote and misuse until they want to mock a Christian belief, and then, amazingly enough, their suddenly EXPERTS! Their so good at doubt, they doubt everything. They would fit right in with the moon conspiratress crowd. They would doubt 2+2 if it could possibly mean they were wrong. Why? PRIDE...Oh, they have a god, alright. Their god is at the center of their pride...it's "I" (themselves).

    July 31, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      They're.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • CosmicC

      I find that many atheists have read the bible (both old and new testaments), the koran and other sacred texts and are often more well read than believers.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Lovecrafty

      I argue the CONCEPTS of Christianity. Take Noah's flood. Did a 3-toed Sloth get off the Ark and walk from the middle east to South America at 6.5 feet per minute, sleeping 14hrs a day? Did light not refract through water droplets in the air BEFORE Noah or did God make a rainbow after the flood as a promise to never drown us all again? Did God create the world, let Dinosaurs reign for millions of years and THEN decide to put mankind upon it? You don't have to misquote anything to see the Bible is a fairy tale!

      July 31, 2013 at 8:24 am |
      • Brother Maynard

        "Did light not refract through water droplets in the air BEFORE Noah ... "
        Not critisizing, honestly, but did that reference / argument come from a book ?
        Maybe from 'Why I Believed' by Kenneth Daniels ? That line just sound so familiar and it is driving me crazy
        🙂 thanx

        July 31, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • Saraswati

      Does anyone know if this business about atheists thinking of themselves as god is something taught in a particular church or propaganda line? It is so nonsensical I can't imagine people coming up with it on their own, but I've no idea where it comes from.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • KAS

      Too bad study after study has shown that atheists, on the whole, are more knowledgeable about religions (plural) than those who claim to be religious. In fact, during these studies, those who claimed to be religious often misquoted or simply made up biblical quotes more than atheists did.

      I know these facts don't sit well with religious folks, otherwise they wouldn't keep trying to claim a mythological being is responsible for everything without providing evidence for said being, but the facts speak for themselves.

      So, would you like to join the moon landing conspiracy groups and try to explain away these facts?

      July 31, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Jen

      Interesting philosophy. Most atheists I know actually came from churches and have a much greater understanding of doctrine than believers... it is that understanding, questioning, and studying that led to me leaving Christianity. I taught youth groups, ran Bible Studies, etc. There is no pride at all, only utter humility, in atheism. How can one imagine the vastness of our universe and the miniscule influence we have on it and be anything but humble?

      July 31, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • CosmicC

      Pride? I can think of nothing more egotistic than believing that a singular supreme being created you as the penultimate creation in the universe (central concept of most religions).

      July 31, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  17. brad1001

    Read the opening page of Genesis. It clearly explains what we believe is the process of the origin of the universe. This was recorded by men who had no scientific idea of cosmic processes. So how did they get that on paper? Lucky guess? Perhaps someone was guiding their hand as they wrote it, eh?

    July 31, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      No need to read that. We know it is wrong due to the vast amounts of Scientific evidence showing it is. Have you not ever heard of an imagination? That would explain why it is on paper. J K Rowling wrote about this kid named Harry Potter...does that mean that witches are real because it's on paper? Did you even go to school outside of your Mommy's kitchen table??

      July 31, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Genesis has nothing scientific in it, apart from the fact that fruit grows on trees.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • CosmicC

      I read that Ilúvatar created the world and the beings who inhabit it. It was pulled together out of chaos through the music of the Ainur. I like that story better than Genesis. I still choose to use my intellect and look to science for explanations about creation.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Primewonk

      "In the beginning god created the heavens and the earth." Right off the bat, your god gets it wrong. The earth most definately was not created in the beginning. In fact, the universe existed for 9,000,000,000 years before the earth coalesced from the detritus of earlier stars – which by the way, your god didn't create until day 4.

      "Let there be light." Wrong again. The early universe was way too hot and way too dense for light to exist. The universe had to cool and expand for 370,000 years before visible light could exist.

      Your god claims there was liquid water on the surface of the earth before there was a heat source to liquify it – the sun.

      You god claims there was vegetation on earth before there was a heat source or a photon source to drive photosynthesis – the sun.

      Your god claims that birds existed BEFORE land animals – we know this is a lie.

      Your god claims he created a woman from the rib of a man and al humans descended from them. Cloning Eve from Adam's rib would mean she had the same DNA as Adam. Eve would have been a dude.

      These are just some of the lies from the first chapter of the first book. It only goes downhill from there.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  18. k210

    I find it funny that the same tactics mentioned here in this article and within these comments which are said to be used by Christians to get their message across are the same ones deployed by atheist, talk about hypocrites! The fact that the percentage of population the attest to being atheist are very low yet this article explains how the boards and blogs are loaded with atheist tells you that the few are being loud and intrusive. To bring out that if there is a Christian view point on youtube atheist are going to lambast that individual goes to show intolerance, what happened to live and let live? Then comments that openly insult others beliefs and suppose atheism is the only true way are just hypocritical. I would dare say that MOST people who profess atheism do so out of ignorance and convenience, most have not truly researched the subject just as most professing Christians haven't.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • Saraswati

      "The fact that the percentage of population the attest to being atheist are very low yet this article explains how the boards and blogs are loaded with atheist tells you that the few are being loud and intrusive."

      What it says is that because their numbers are low they find ways to meet people from further afield. It's a pretty obvious and not very interesting factor. Anyone who wants to learn about beliefs that aren't common in their own community is more likely to spend time conversing about those ideas online.

      July 31, 2013 at 8:12 am |
  19. SA reader

    Question: How does the God system work?

    Observation: People are bad!1 How could this happen?

    If people are created by God in his/her/it’s image why are people bad? Using modern jargon, how come God doesn’t “hardwire” people to be good?

    Possible reasons that people are bad:

    1. God does not have he ability to create good people.2

    2. God made a mistake creating people and does not have the ability to correct it.3

    3. God made a mistake creating people and does have to ability to correct it but chooses to let people be bad.4

    4. God intentionally created people to be bad.5

    5. God created people so they have “free spirit” to choose and then participate in a testing system to see if they can follow the rules and are worthy of Heaven after they die. But then what’s the point (intelligent design?) of having all the bad people lost to Hell. With sufficient power (or intelligence) why not create good people in the first place?6

    6. God lets things go on automatic pilot.7

    7. There is no God.8

    8. Nobody knows, including God.9

    9. I ran out of reasons there are probably others?

    1. Christians, for example, have ten rules telling them how to be good.
    2. Are there limits to God’s power?
    3. Does God make mistakes?
    4. Why would God not correct a mistake if He has the ability to do so?
    5. Why would God create people to be bad?
    6. God likes the testing system and it gives Him and all his employees something to do evaluating the people as they pass through the system? I think this system also keeps the Devil in business too!
    7. I think this is evolution from the scientific point of view? People have evolved to be good and bad because God does not meddle with nature.
    8. No Devil either! We are on our own in the big universe.
    9. Asking such questions might be a sin so we don’t ask. Or maybe the reason people are bad falls into the “mysterious incomprehensible area” where we can’t explain how things work. For example, are the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost one two or three deities?

    July 31, 2013 at 8:05 am |
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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.