'Social justice' apart from evangelization drives youth away from Christianity, says new study
by Peter Baklinski
July 5, 2013
When a Christian apologetics ministry asked college atheists nationwide why they had abandoned religion, it was "startled" by the responses.
"Most of our participants had not chosen their worldview from ideologically neutral positions at all, but in reaction to Christianity. Not Islam. Not Buddhism. Christianity," wrote Larry Alex Taunton, founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation, in a piece that appeared in The Atlantic last month.
Atheists revealed that while many of them grew up attending church where they heard "plenty of messages encouraging 'social justice,' community involvement, and 'being good'...they seldom saw the relationship between that message, Jesus Christ, and the Bible."
"The connection between Jesus and a person's life was not clear," said one atheist named Stephanie.
"This is an incisive critique," said Taunton. Stephanie "seems to have intuitively understood that the church does not exist simply to address social ills, but to proclaim the teachings of its Founder, Jesus Christ, and their relevance to the world. Since Stephanie did not see that connection, she saw little incentive to stay."
Many atheists also revealed that they had once attended church with the hope of having light shed on life's big questions, only to find services that were "largely shallow, harmless, and ultimately irrelevant."
"Church became all about ceremony, handholding, and kumbaya," said one atheist named Phil. "I missed my old youth pastor. He actually knew the Bible."
"Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change [the lives] of others. I haven't seen too much of that," said another atheist named Michael, a political science major at Dartmouth.
The study found that ages 14-17 were the decisive years for those who "embraced unbelief." While many atheists were able to argue their position from what they considered to be "exclusively rational reasons," at the same time the decision to abandon belief for many arose from a "deeply emotional" experience such as childhood abuse.
Finally, young atheists said that the internet factored heavily into their abandonment of the faith, mentioning videos they had watched on YouTube or website forums they had visited.
Taunton said that the study left a "lasting impression" on his ministry. "These students were, above all else, idealists who longed for authenticity, and having failed to find it in their churches, they settled for a non-belief that, while less grand in its promises, felt more genuine and attainable."
Catholic philosopher and Boston College professor Peter Kreeft recently told LifeSiteNews.com that Christian faith is disappearing from the Western world, because Christians have lost focus on Christ and given up the fight.
"Christians are supposed to fight too, the notion of spiritual warfare, the true meaning of jihad - a war against sin rather than flesh and blood. This is central to Christianity and we've lost it, and therefore opposite forces are entering the vacuum."
Kreeft said that if Christianity is to experience a renewal in North America, it must "recapture its essence, its identity. It must return to Jesus."
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