It comes as no surprise to anyone keeping a finger on the pulse of our culture that a dramatically high number of young people are leaving the church. Many of these formerly churched individuals are now identifying as “nones” (religiously unaffiliated). Many are going as far as to declare themselves atheists or agnostics, while others say they’re “spiritual” but not religious (although everyone has a religion because all people have beliefs about how the universe and life did or did not arise). Why are so many young people abandoning traditional church?
Why Are They Leaving?
In 2009, I co-authored a book entitled Already Gone. This book was based on research that we commissioned from America’s Research Group. Through this research we were attempting to answer the question of why two thirds of young people are leaving the church when they go to college. What’s happening?
Well, our research revealed that, as early as even elementary and middle school, young people have doubts and questions about the Bible that are going unanswered. Research shows that many of these questions are related to Genesis and scientific issues such as evolution, long ages (millions of years), dinosaurs, and Noah’s Ark. These young people are not getting solid answers from church leaders and parents but, sadly, are often told they can believe in the big bang, millions of years, and evolution; they’re then admonished to reinterpret or ignore Genesis while being told to “trust in Jesus!” These young people recognize the inconsistency of reinterpreting the first book of the Bible and yet being expected to trust the other books that talk about Christ. If we can doubt and reinterpret Genesis, where do we stop doubting and reinterpreting?
A Mass Exodus
We at Answers in Genesis are certainly not the only ones noticing and expressing concern about this mass exodus of young people from the church. Other groups have also conducted research to try and determine why these young people are leaving in such large numbers. New research from the Pew Research Center asked those who are no longer affiliated with a church or religious group to explain in their own words why they left. They divided these results by the respondents’ answers as well as by whether they defined their beliefs as “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “nothing in particular.” The results are certainly worth pondering.