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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. Bill

    @Doc. There was a flood, but not in the way that most people think of it. Let me start with saying I'm at work so I don't have time to track down my resources but I did a study on this a few years ago for school. Details are a bit hazy bear with me. In the middle east there were three different culture all separated geographically, but in the same generally area of the world. These three cultures which never had any contact with each other all had a story of a "great flood" which covered the whole world. Now think back then with travel on a global scale not even being a thought that people had, the place you lived would be your whole world. All three stories had the flood lasting between 3 to 4 weeks I believe, AND all three stories even had a hero who built an arc so that he and his family and a load of animals could survive and repopulate after the fact. I don't remember the name of the area but It is a sunken down area surrounded by 3 rivers. Evidence of a flood that fits the description has been found in the last decade or so. There are also arguments that this is where Eden was located. Again sorry for the fuzzy details, but I don't have my research in front of me at the moment. I'll try to find it and post it later.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      And I would love to see.
      Mythology often has a basis in fact.
      There is mention of a catastrophic flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
      King Gilgamesh's kingdom of Uruk was a real place that has been unearthed by archaeologists.
      That doesn't mean, however, that he was a demi-god who rules for 125 years and took a trip to the Underworld.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:57 am |
      • Bill

        Yeah! Gilgamesh was one of them, the story of Noah was one, and I can't remember the 3rd.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  2. ME

    I've said this before, and I'll say it again:

    God is going to have to show his hand if he exists. Do something clearly and massively impossible, like exchange the water for the land in a nanosecond. None of this "Oh, Billy survived cancer the doctors said was 99% likely to kill him, it's a miracle!" garbage.

    This "Trust me, people wrote about it 2000 years ago so it must be true!" stuff is getting old, as is the "You can't answer all questions, therefore Jeebus!" argument.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • AdamC

      That's because you are a logical, thinking person. That's not compatible with belief in Christianity.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  3. bmkinz1510

    Death, the great equalizer! The moment Atheists will literally be enlightened:-)

    July 31, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • denver

      In all likelihood, "death" is the moment in which the electrochemical activity in the meat that makes up your brain- "you"- fizzes out and your consciousness ceases to exist. I know that's more philosophically scary than walking around on a cloud with grandma for all eternity but, well... grown-ups have to face these things.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • mk

      You're referring to the moment when we will see the face of Allah, correct? Er...which damnation are you speaking of and how do you know that you aren't going to get some kind of surprise yourself?

      July 31, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Yeah, we get it, BM. We know how trolls work. Your attention span extends to half a line of type, after which you have to gulp down more coffee in hopes of getting your brain fired up again.

      BTW, it's cute to see that you seem to have figured out for yourself (probably after about the hundredth time the term was applied to you) that "cyberbully" wasn't intended a a compliment.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  4. St

    I am disgusted that churches are still tax exempt when I see them building churches bigger than most schools and worth millions of dollars. What happened to helping the poor?

    July 31, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Churches are independently sovereign. They don't pay taxes because the are like foreign governments.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:52 am |
      • St

        But why should they be?

        July 31, 2013 at 11:53 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          Because that is how the king and the pope set it up so your ancestors wouldn't kill each other.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • worktolive

      Churches do help the poor-you must not know this because you don't attend???

      July 31, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • St

        How about you take a few million and help the poor instead of erecting a fortress for something that doesn't exist? Do you think god, if he were to exist, would condone such materialistic nonsense instead of helping those less fortunate? your religion is one of convenience.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:58 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          Basilicas and cathedrals are very effective means of drawing man's attention away from the mundane and towards the divine. There is probably no calculation available for the numbers of people who have found hope, restoration, inspiration and consolation just by sitting in a church somewhere. Not to mention the very real and practical uses of churches as the literal fort for town and village people against robbers and other bandits throughout some rougher periods of history

          July 31, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • AdamC

      Religions have always been more about control then helping the poor.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:54 am |
      • Ken

        Even Jesus wasn't as concerned with the poor as with getting his message about himself out there.

        3Then Mary took about a pinta of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

        4But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ” 6He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

        7“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” John 12:3-8

        July 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Ken

      No, Churches are tax exempt because they claim that all of their activities qualify as a tax-exempt charity. The reality, as we all know, is that much church activity revolves around increasing membership, creating revenue through activities like operating a store, politics, counselling and creating social events for members. All of these additional, non-charity activities are legitimate secular businesses, so the government is actually aiding certain businesses, religious ones, have an unfair advantage over others.

      Also, by getting into the business of determining which religions actually qualify for tax-exempt status, the government is actually ruling on how legitimate all faiths are, which is unconst itional. To be fair, churches should all file separate for their charitable wings, and pay taxes on everything else just like we do.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  5. bmkinz1510

    Atheists are just evolved monkeys living by their instincts and wearing their tunnel vision goggles. God help them!

    July 31, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Harry

      Why so nasty?

      July 31, 2013 at 11:45 am |
      • bmkinz1510

        Sometimes, you have to fight fire with fire, cyberbully with cyberbully.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:47 am |
        • denver

          Trolling for Jesus, eh? What makes you think the all-knowing creator of the universe requires you to back him up in comment threads? Shouldn't you be out washing poor peoples' feet or something?

          July 31, 2013 at 11:48 am |
        • Pest

          Seems that I read something somewhere about loving your enemy and turning the other cheek. Where could that have been?

          July 31, 2013 at 11:49 am |
        • GlendaPinkle

          I use to be a member of several Christian blogs and discussion boards back in the early 90s, well before atheists even started to make their presence known on the internet, and I have to say that Christians virtually invented cyberbullying. We would tear into gays, Jews and Democrats with such language and hatred, even back then. Very few Christians on those sites would raise a word in disagreement, including myself, I'm ashamed to say. Today, there are Facebook pages doing the exact same thing.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
        • datawrecker

          So much for being a good christian.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
        • Eye for an eye for Allah

          So, you are just going to completely shun the teachings of Jesus (turn the other cheek) and go straight to some Q'ran vengence? That doesn't sound like something Jesus would allow his disciples to do....

          July 31, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
        • Sleeper_6

          Of Course! It's like Jesus said: "You must resist an evil person and strike them down with your words on the internet!" Oh wait he never said that, my mistake! He did say in Matthew 5:37: All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." And following that in Matthew 5:38 – 40, he said: You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well."

          Seems to me that bickering with Atheists on the internet and being a bunch of jerks about it is a direct contradiction to the words of Jesus! What will you say when you stand before the throne and the almighty holds you accountable for all the people you could have saved if only you weren't an internet jerk? I will cry out from across the chasm while you are in paradise, as I am awash in the flames of the lake of fire: Why bmkinz1510? Why didn't you share with me the good news of the love of christ! I could have been saved!"

          LOL There's no heaven or hell, so you don't have to worry about that. But you are being a hypocritical idiot acting in the exact opposite way that Jesus, the founder of your religion apparently said you should.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
      • bannister

        Maybe it's because the atheist are so nasty and he just can't take it anymore. I'm agnostic and I think many of these atheist "activists" are pretty shallow, cruel people who just use religion as a whipping boy.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:49 am |
        • bmkinz1510

          I agree with you, Bannister. It is one thing to discuss religion and one's belief in a civil manner but I have noticed that so-called Atheists only want to bully Christians and chastise their beliefs. I think that is why most Christians avoid blogs dominated by Atheists. It is hard for a Christian to discuss spiritual beliefs when Atheists only want to deal with the physical.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:57 am |
        • denver

          While I'll certainly agree that some atheists are over-the-top jerks, bmkinz1510 is no better. Trolling just lowers the conversation regardless of who's doing it.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
        • InAnswer

          For the record: God is not nasty but engaging. Jesus spend most of His time interacting and teaching. He said He did not come into the world to condemn the, but the world through Him might believe (John 3:16-17, Any Version). There is common ground here where we can begin a discussion. We are alive in this world and we are seeking answers to our deepest questions and relief from our fears. Let's engage...

          July 31, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
        • Sleeper_6

          To be fair, if something can be destroyed by the truth, it should be destroyed. Including religion and all of it's baggage.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'God is not nasty but engaging'

          have you read the OT? the god in there is a nasty evil psycho SOB. If he isnt killing someone then he is turning a blind eye to his followers doing it.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
      • flying spaghetti monster

        He lashes out because he feels threatened by the fact that there are rational human beings out there who do not share his beliefs, leading him to doubt, deep down at the very least, whether his whole faith is a sham.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:51 am |
        • bmkinz1510

          You are assuming a lot about something you have no knowledge of. But nice try!

          July 31, 2013 at 11:59 am |
        • justageeker

          Maybe it has something to do with your derogatory screen name? Why belittle someone for their beliefs?

          July 31, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
        • flying spaghetti monster

          justageeker: the fact that my screenname references a joke used to illustrate some atheist arguments is derogatory?

          July 31, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • denver

      Technically, all humans share a common ancestor with modern apes and we've all evolved. And, god's help notwithstanding, we're really good at helping ourselves.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Amor DeCosmos

      I know you are, but what am I? Nyah nyah nyah, got you there!

      July 31, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      We are ALL evolved, but not from monkeys. They too are descendants of a common ancestor further up the evolutionary tree.

      You know how we know this? Not because of prayer, inspiration, divine revelation, miracles, or "holy" books but because of solid scientific investigation, performed with integrity and meticulousness by actual human beings.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:48 am |
      • justageeker

        There is still that pesky thing called the missing link.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:54 am |
        • denver

          People who demand a "missing link" generally don't even begin to understand biology, evolution, or archaeology.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:56 am |
        • Rochester

          That notion is about 30 years old. The science has moved way beyond that "problem".

          July 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Marklar

      Really? We are all hairless apes with shoes.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • MoveForward

      What a great example of Christian ignorance. Thanks for supporting atheism!

      July 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • david

      I don't think that comment applies just to athiest

      July 31, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Doobs

      Since we are all the same species, that would make you an "evolved monkey" with your own brand of tunnel vision as well.

      Or are you a different species, since you came from either mud and gawd spittle or a mud and spit man's rib?

      July 31, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  6. Peter Q Wolfe

    No, what I'm tired with the religious or religion in communities is the influence on politics especially on social and economic issues in the U.S and abroad. The irony is that religion never evver makes up for the government assistance not even malnutrition or anything just 2% annually given in GDP terms in the U.S annually. Nobody ever works hard enough to justify being a billionaire or getting huge dividends just for having money not doing work now just having money! This is what is wrong in America just too many ccontortions of manipulation of facts for selfish desires by secret special interest groups e.g. the wealthy and multi-national corporations.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      So you think what is wrong with America is religious freedom and the capitalist system. I bet you were educated in the public schools weren't you?

      July 31, 2013 at 11:55 am |
      • MoveForward

        Since most Americans were educated by public education by your reckoning most Americans would be opposed to religious freedom and capitalism. Fortunately, you are far off the mark.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Doobs

      "Nobody ever works hard enough to justify being a billionaire or getting huge dividends just for having money not doing work now just having money! "

      Do you have a source or citation for this statement?

      I've worked for over fifty years, all the while putting as much as I could into my savings account, and later, into my 401K and my company's stock option plan. Now I've accumulated enough to retire comfortably on the interest from my earnings. I'm not a billionaire, but my portfolio is robust.

      I managed this by working hard, getting a good education, not living above my means, and by assuming that I was responsible for my own retirement. Everything I have is bought and paid for. Social Security will just be my fun money.

      Some people are born into money. Lucky them. But saying that nobody who has wealth has worked for it is just a lie.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  7. sdfdf34

    Why only focus on Christianity in this article? Lots of other religions are just as oppressive. Seems like it's a wonderful thing when people leave Christianity but a horror when people leave other religions.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Amor DeCosmos

      In North America, the predominant religion is some sect of Christianity. All religions are equally vile, but the majority of people deconverting from religion in North America, are going to be ex-Christians.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Ken

      CNN is news largely for Americans, and here in America Christians are the dominant religion, and thus responsible for most religious abuse here. That's why atheists here point most of their criticisms against Christians. Once Hindus gain power here and start having laws passed against cattle ranching, we atheists will respond to them at an appropriate level.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      For my part, I think it's wonderful when people leave ANY religion.

      The only thing better would be if we didn't brainwash little kids into believing that crap in the 1st place.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • flying spaghetti monster

        Seriously, RichardRussel. Parents tell their impressionable child, from day one and reinforced at least on a weekly basis throughout the child's formative years, that there is an invisible, all-powerful man watching every little thing they did and keeping track, ready to send them to an eternity of suffering for such things as mas.turba.ting, or failing to believe in them with their whole heart. This is child abuse.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  8. Flyover Fred

    The argument that is being espoused here is a classic logical fallacy. I see there are lots of vocal atheists and that there are fewer vocal Christians, therefore the atheists must be "winning" the totally made up war. Correlation does not equal causation.

    There are certainly fewer devout Christians in the U.S. today, but this does not necessarily mean there are more atheists. For some reason, there is a substantial number of really negative, vocal, hate-filled atheists, who feel the need to shout down every iota of religion they can find. In doing so, they tend to instantly demean the religious person as stupid, backward, uneducated, etc. In short, an atheist has it all figured out, and he hates you for not bowing to his intellectual superiority.

    Agnostics, on the other hand, tend to be indifferent, which would seem more rational. They don't know what's out there, but they don't believe your version (whatever that version may be.) They don't feel an intense desire to make you believe the way they do, and are indifferent to the choices of others. Atheists (and others) should take a page from that book.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Fred, this essay just got right straight to the WHY without feeling any need to address the WHAT. The factual basis for the growth in atheism (and corresponding decline in Christianity) is well established and has been going on for at least 20 years. Besides, it was kind of covered a couple of days ago in Rachel Held Evans's essay on the same phenomenon from a Christian evangelical perspective. You can read THAT one by looking for it under the Belief Blog header banner.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:45 am |
      • justageeker

        The why? One of the first things is "They're anti-gay" and right above it is a link to an article with the pope saying who is he to judge...LOL.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:59 am |
        • cedar rapids

          which suggests that the church recognises it has an issue and is trying to soften its stance.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • AdamC

      Your post could be boiled down to "Stop gaining so much attention, atheists." I can understand why you think agnostics are ok; they are not a threat to your religion. Atheists tend to be more driven to talk about the inconsistencies in religion as well as the hate. That makes religious people nervous.

      I don't see the trend changing, however. In 30 years, Christianity will be a minority in the US.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:50 am |
      • trigaba

        You do realize that Flyover Fred never actually said he was a Christian, you just assumed that.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Sue Anne

      I'm sure that the bigots down south must have felt that they were getting to be outnumbered once the Civil Rights supporters started to march, but that's only because they were all but invisible before.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  9. St

    I am shocked by what I am reading by supposed "christians" that claim to have love in their heart. Telling people they will BURN in hell? What a disgusting mind you must have to say such a twisted and evil thing. I think you can be a good person, often a kinder and more accepting person, without childish religious dogma telling you who to shun and hate.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • mk

      But, I don't understand. Christians do believe in hell and that you will burn for eternity if you sin and are not repentant, a concept formed by their loving god. Why would it be so awful for them to say that when that is exactly what they believe?

      July 31, 2013 at 11:51 am |
      • St

        So we are supposed to be accepting of evil people just because they are crazy?

        July 31, 2013 at 11:55 am |
        • mk

          So because someone is doing something that you think is not right according to YOUR religion, you are allowed to wish the worst on them? So the "sins" that you commit are much better sins than theirs, according to YOU? Where is the line between which sins are damnable and which are not? And I thought your slogan was "Love the sinner, hate the sin"??

          July 31, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
      • ME

        That was my first reaction; the problem is not, however, the belief that an unrepentant sinner will burn in hell, but that this world should have penalties for said sins.

        If there is a hell reserved for certain groups of people, that's one thing. But all you can do in this life is suggest that someone weigh their own actions against that possibility. That whole "Love the Sinner, hate the Sin" thing.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:57 am |
        • mk

          In other words, live your entire life in fear.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  10. bmkinz1510

    Atheist = Cyberbully. Nothing more, Nothing less! Let the bullying begin:-)

    July 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • David Gabriel

      True Christian sentiment.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:42 am |
      • Amor DeCosmos

        I know, right, all those poor Christians are being persecuted when we tell them they can't make us pray...

        July 31, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Well, when your 1st 6 words are demonstrably false, there's no real need to read much further, is there? Not as if you had anything more to say anyway, but still ...

      July 31, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • lol??

      Begin?? You new here??

      July 31, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Sue Anne

      That would make some Christians door-to-door bullies, as well as bullies in almost every other place, including cyberspace.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • cedar rapids

      oh dear, bearing false witness. Thats a no-no.
      sorry, not my rules you understand.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  11. libertyadamson

    I don't believe atheists are responsible for the millenials exodus from Christianity. In fact, I believe they may be being used by the God they don't believe in to drag milenials away from a religious train of thought that has long been labeled Christianity, but is not. The whole Jakes, Olsteen, Zschech, Meyers, Prince, Hinn, Robertson, Crouch et al version of religion has been mislabeled Christianity when it is not. It is a fabricated religion with much basis in new age philosophy and proof-texted pseudo-Biblical theologies that aren't Christianity at all. Millenials need to get away from that religion in order to be able to discover what true Christianity entails. I believe the athiests are helping the Cause of Christ even though they would abhor that if they really got what was going on. I say to millenials, break free from wrong Christianity and find out what it is really about – you willl love it!

    July 31, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      "Well, they may CALL themselves Christians, but they aren't REAL Christians. Only members of MY church are REAL Christians."

      Where have we heard that about 5000 times before? Oh, yeah, it comes up every time some dissident group reads "God's revealed and unchanging word" differently from the church they belong to and splits off. This happened most spectacularly wit Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, but memorably as well with the SOUTHERN Baptists and SOUTHERN Methodists, who were convinced (accurately IMHO) that the Bible endorsed slavery and refused to truck with the abolitionist national churches they used to be part of.

      Over and over and over, same refrain: "Those aren't REAL Christians."

      Well, if there WERE any objective way of telling who the real Christians are, we wouldn't have 5000 different flavors of them, now would we?

      After all, you will not find an American astronomy, a Baptist biology, a capitalist chemistry, a mammalian math, or a feminist physics. There's only one worldwide version of each, because they're all based on facts, not opinions. Religion is nothing BUT opinions, no facts involved, which is why anybody's word on religion is just as good as anyone else's (to wit, no good at all).

      July 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Sue Anne

      We're not going to up and decide to join some liberal church once all the rich televangelists disappear. Getting rid of them won't make God any less unbelievable.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  12. Never have, never will

    I was raised Lutheran and could never understand why people believe in this stuff? Common sense tells one that this stuff was created to control people. I'm 45 and have never fallen for this crap. My children were never subjected to any religion's fear and hate mongering, and neither will theirs. That is something to truly be thankful for.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • aldewacs

      Your children, and their children have much to be thankful for.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Marco

      If your Lutheran church is preaching hate or fear mongering, either your pastor is doing a very poor job or you’re allowing yourself to hear a different message.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  13. bmkinz1510

    I find it humorous that so-called Atheists will whine and cry that they don't want Christian's to shove their beliefs down their throats, but then the Atheists will turn around and try to shove their beliefs down other's throats. Atheists want to trade one "brainwashing" for another. It appears that Atheist employ the same tactics that they are so much against.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Sue Anne

      Simply disagreeing with you, and explaining your reasons for doing so, isn't "shoving" anything. You're just upset that people are getting brave enough to stop taking it from you. Most bullies react that way.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Seriously? You should look at your own religion before whining and crying about Atheists some how shoving things down your throat (though I highly doubt you have ever met an Atheist in real life).

      July 31, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Could you please explain what beliefs we are shoving down your throat?

      July 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • sam

      So you have atheists knocking on your door regularly and asking to share their good news with you, do you? Fascinating.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Rochester

      When is that last time an atheist came to your door to try and get you to see the light of science?

      July 31, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      Once again, the believers do not understand what atheism actually is. They seem to think that everyone has to believe in something. Exactly what are these atheistic beliefs that we are pushing? I would really like to know what you think we are trying to force on you.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • bmkinz1510

      Atheist = Cyberbully. Nothing more, Nothing less! Let the bullying begin:-)

      July 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
      • RichardSRussell

        Oh, look, kids, it's learned how to copy and paste. Isn't that cute?

        July 31, 2013 at 11:42 am |
        • bmkinz1510

          Is that the best you could come up with???

          July 31, 2013 at 11:45 am |
      • denver

        atheist = lack of god belief (positively asserted or not)
        thesist = god belief

        ...the rest is your own personal baggage.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:44 am |
      • Doobs

        Disagreeing is not bullying.

        Bullying is when a couple of strangers come to your door, uninvited, and tell you that you are a horrible person and will be tortured for eternity if you don't believe in their deity du jour.

        Slamming the door in the faces of religious bullies, or telling them to get the fuck off my property is also not bullying.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
      • Doobs

        Disagreeing is not bullying.

        Bullying is when a couple of strangers come to your door, uninvited, and tell you that you are a horrible person and will be tortured for eternity if you don't believe in their deity du jour.

        Slamming the door in the faces of religious bullies, or telling them to get the fuck off my property is also not bullying.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      You might have a point if schools started each day off by making all the kids stand up and repeat in unison "God does not exist. He's just Santa Claus for adults. I don't believe in God." Or if the did the same thing before city-council meetings or high-school football games. Or if all our money carried the inscription "In God We Scoff". Or if the president ended every speech with "Humans bless America, because God sure won't."

      When's the last time you heard of ANY of that happening, as we atheists try to "cram our unbelief" down anyone's throats?

      July 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • denver

      Can you describe a time an atheist has tried to shove their beliefs down your throat? I'm not saying it hasn't happened, but I often find that theists find anything less that total social deference to their views as an assault by atheists.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Never have, never will

      I don't believe in any higher power. There simply is no belief to push down anyone's throat? I suspect that you have doubts and lash out this way to try and save face.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'I find it humorous that so-called Atheists will whine and cry that they don't want Christian's to shove their beliefs down their throats, but then the Atheists will turn around and try to shove their beliefs down other's throats'

      name an instance where atheists tried to shove atheism down christian's throats?

      July 31, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  14. libertyadamson

    Athiests need to pat themselves on the back because they believe this is the only life they've got. They're not going any further, so all the acolades they receive have to be in the here and now. It's a very thin argument to say they're responsible for the millenial exodus. Very thin. The reality is, the big exodus isn't away from Christianity, it's away from WRONG religious teachings labeled Christianity. The Jakes, Hinns, Meyers, Osteens, Princes, Zscheches, Robertsons, Crouchs et all need to be walked away from because their teachings are not Christianity. I have no problem with millenials walking away from that form of religion, but the athiests need to understand that it is no big deal to pull millenials away from that religion – just don't mistake it for Christianity. It is not. And it's doing Christianity a favor to draw people to question that religious train of thought!!!

    July 31, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • aldewacs

      Right.
      The Jakes, Hinns, Meyers, Osteens, Princes, Zscheches, Robertsons, Crouchs et all are not real Scotsmen .. uh.. I mean Christians.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:29 am |
      • libertyadamson

        They do not teach Christianity. Their version is a serious departure. In order for them to live the lifestyles they live, they have to proof-text the Bible to make it say things it doesn't say.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:37 am |
        • Pest

          The wild contradictions of the Bible make it easy to use it to justify or condemn just about any behavior. And of course, everyone thinks their chosen interpretation is the "correct" one, as others demonstrated to you.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • joeynew11

      please note this authors opinion is not that of all atheists, the great thing about atheists is we have differing opinions. We just mutually agree that blind faith is silly when there are so many better things to do with our lives.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      "Well, they may CALL themselves Christians, but they aren't REAL Christians. Only members of MY church are REAL Christians."

      Where have we heard that about 5000 times before? Oh, yeah, it comes up every time some dissident group reads "God's revealed and unchanging word" differently from the church they belong to and splits off. This happened most spectacularly wit Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, but memorably as well with the SOUTHERN Baptists and SOUTHERN Methodists, who were convinced (accurately IMHO) that the Bible endorsed slavery and refused to truck with the abolitionist national churches they used to be part of.

      Over and over and over, same refrain: "Those aren't REAL Christians."

      Well, if there WERE any objective way of telling who the real Christians are, we wouldn't have 5000 different flavors of them, now would we?

      After all, you will not find an American astronomy, a Baptist biology, a capitalist chemistry, a mammalian math, or a feminist physics. There's only one worldwide version of each, because they're all based on facts, not opinions. Religion is nothing BUT opinions, no facts involved, which is why anybody's word on religion is just as good as anyone else's (to wit, no good at all).

      July 31, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Ken

      libertyadamson
      It would be great to have immortality if you wanted it, and it might be nice to fantasize about not actually dying, but the reality of the situation is that we don't have any good reason for believing that there is an afterlife. It is evident, however, that the belief in an afterlife has been used to control people for thousands of years, which makes that belief even more suspect.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • only one side is fighting

      I simply do not believe that we were created by an omnipotent god. I do not believe that it happened. I have full faith that humans will one day be able to answer the questions of how we came to be, why and where we go when we die. I don't believe that those answers lie in religious doctrine. I have listened to arguments both for and against religion and I have made a decision. Those are my beliefs. Don't read too far into them.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  15. lol??

    Closets:A place for every skeleton, and a skeleton in its place.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Now, now. This article is about atheism, not the Catholic priesthood.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  16. Matt

    Aside from what the trolls say on this board, I have found in my circle of friends, at least the ones that are not churchgoing, that none are actually "hard atheists". I see more agnostics, people who are deists, and those that are apathetic about religion. Most still celebrate more of the secular and family side of Christmas, but that is about it.

    Most reject "the do this, don't do that, reject this behavior and you will get to heaven, otherwise it is hell" mentality of the church.

    Regarding hard atheism, it requires just as much faith in absolutely no god as Christianity requires that there is an intervening god and a trinity.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Vinchy

      Oh. I see. The people you disagree with are "trolls". Thanks for clarifying.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • bgtinc

      I do consider myself an atheist, but I am also open to the notion that there is a lot here that we do not see and understand. There is a feeling of the spiritual or mystical that seems to be part of life.

      But when people gather together to espouse their One and True version of God, especially when they do so and at the same time tell their congregations that God demands that they contribute money to the PR effort behind this particular God, I think "snake oil!".

      The main effect of religion is to disconnect people from a direct experience of the spiritual and mystical, and what most religions do to people is sad.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • mmmmm pasta

      Wrong. Atheism makes no positive claim. You need to do some studying.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Rochester

      For many (like myself) the transition to atheism is a process. Raised in the church, I was told at a very young age that the Bible was truth, and at that age, I did not possess the critical thinking skills to challenge those beliefs. Once ingrained, religion is very difficult to root out. It can even be a bit scary to let go of the idea of God. I transitioned to deist then to agnostic, and finally to atheism when I finally decided there simply was no evidence of God. It took a while, but when it finally happened, it was very liberating.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'Regarding hard atheism, it requires just as much faith in absolutely no god as Christianity requires that there is an intervening god and a trinity.'

      another one making this claim. it boggles the mind.
      how does it take more faith to believe in a natural process versus 'it was magic' ? what sort of childhood did you have where the idea that 'magic' was an serious answer to a question?

      July 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  17. eric

    Atheism is the new religion.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Truth

      It ends with burning in Hell...

      July 31, 2013 at 11:24 am |
      • What is going on? FREEDOM

        Hell only exists to those that fear it.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:26 am |
      • tidystar

        When I die I will be burned and turned to dust. Nothing else will happen. Keep fearing god your whole life if thats what you want to do. I live a very happy and prosperous life without god. I was raised a catholic and even an alter boy for many years. I dont need a church telling me gays are not accepted while allowing them to touch children. When are they going to live up to their mistakes? Prove science wrong and I will join a church again.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
      • fork

        Fear is your only god.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
      • JA

        According to one religion, and that's dodgy at best, since a fiery Hell is based on Gehenna, the massive burning pit outside Jerusalem where trash and the bodies of criminals were disposed of.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Bender

      Yep. And not playing basketball is the exciting new sport.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • westondelorenzo

      Yes, atheism is a religion just like no color is my favorite color, or not collecting stamps is my hobby...

      I don't believe in unicorns does that make me part of the athicorn religion?

      July 31, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  18. Dr. James K. MacGregor

    In my thirty years of clinical psychiatry practice, I have observed that without reservation, the worst cases I have worked with are avowed atheists. Likewise, those with the worst self esteem, criminal tendencies and hatred for self and others.

    OTOH, most Christians are spiritually grounded people with strong adherence to their convictions. Do exceptions exist? Sure, on BOTH sides of the argument, but for the most part, this is what I have observed.

    It's like this: It is as though Christians are holding a party, and they want to make sure everyone is invited. Atheists however, do not want to attend, they do not want anyone to attend, they do not want the party to even be held, or any mention of it be made. That is an outlook of hatred and hostility.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • mk

      You are seeing what you want to see, Dr.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • fork

      At this party everyone is drunk on an imaginary God. Atheists want everyone to sober up and face reality.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • sam

      It's frightening that you might actually have contact with the public at large. Get yourself into therapy, quickly.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      Have you factored in that it's stressful to go against the flock? Maybe this is what plagues some atheists? Or are you admitting that just accepting the plate made for you, and not asking who cooked it, or what's it made from, makes you happier because 'ignorance is bliss'? Are you factoring those things in when you make these comments about your 'patients' (which, may I add, seems a little tactless)?

      I think atheists and agnostics greatly represent the curious nature of mankind.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:33 am |
      • C Murdock

        Oh, no no no no no. Atheists are not curious. They just don't want to believe in anything.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:39 am |
        • AverageJoe76

          You mean they don't want to believe in 'magic'? Like the kind Ronald McDonald sings about?

          July 31, 2013 at 11:41 am |
        • Pest

          Riiiight, that's why there are no atheist scientists. Oh, wait a minute....

          July 31, 2013 at 11:43 am |
        • C Murdock

          The mark of a shallow person is that he can only believe in the things he can see and/or verify through testing. Atheists aren't able to read between the lines, so to speak.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          "The mark of a shallow person is that he can only believe in the things he can see and/or verify through testing"
          Really? You just pulled that out of your a$$ didn't you.

          I could just as easily say the mark of a shallow person is to believe what you are told to believe and not question it, to blindly believe it and call it "faith".

          July 31, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • RickintheCity

      You are probably not a doctor in actuality and you are definitely not intelligent. That is the worst summation of "Atheism vs Christianity" that I have ever read. If you are going to make data up to post on the web please at least get in the ballpark of fact and not pure fiction. Your summation is laughable at best and mostly ludicrous!

      July 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • cedar rapids

      '[It's like this: It is as though Christians are holding a party, and they want to make sure everyone is invited. Atheists however, do not want to attend, they do not want anyone to attend, they do not want the party to even be held, or any mention of it be made. That is an outlook of hatred and hostility.'

      Actually its like this....christians are holding a party and they want to make sure those not attending the party still follow the rules of the party, regardless of whether the people want to be at a party or not.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Ok, doctor, which i seriously doubt, you should be able to answer this question...I know it was covered.

      What is it called and how do you treat a patient that believes in things that cannot be shown to be real, that has "faith" that a 2000 year old book that has been proven false in enough areas to put the entire validity of it in question, should be believed, ignoring logic and reason?

      To put it into persective, if you have a patient that says he cannot see giant invisible dragons, but he says they are everywhere, he has faith that they are there, and he feels he needs to act in certain ways because when he dies, they will either let him ride for eternity on them, or they will eat him if he doesn't comply with their wishes, but cannot show the slightest evidence for the belief, how do you treat that individual?

      July 31, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  19. nc1965

    Religion is overrated.

    I agree with this article.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:21 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.