Monday, March 9, 2009

I Am Responsible for Unchurching

church, unchurched, religion, ARIS, survey, religious, christian, christianity, jesus, bible, witness, evangelism, evangelical, god,
or, 1.6% of the population of the US is way more convincing than the rest.

According to the latest American Religious Identification Survey, no religion is the fastest growing religion and Christianity is losing ground. (Unsurprisingly, the religious right is now at Defcon 4.)

From the survey:

86% of American adults identified as Christians in 1990 and 76% in 2008

The "Nones" (no stated religious preference, atheist, or agnostic) continue to grow, though at a much slower pace than in the 1990s, from 8.2% in 1990, to 14.1% in 2001, to 15.0% in 2008.

Of course, the religious right is now searching desperately for answers. They should probably ask someone like me, who would have answered "Christian" in the 1990s, and a firm "atheist" today. Shoulda, woulda, coulda, I suppose, though the religious right's stabs at explanations have amusement value, at the least.

Tony Beam, in Christianity Under Fire: Why Fewer People Identify With the Faith, comes up with five answers:

1. Since 1990, there has been a significant rise in the number of people who are what I call “aggressive atheists.” Of course, atheists are number one. We're 1.6% of the population, according to the last survey to separate atheists from other "nones", but we're defaithing people in record numbers, cause we're aggressive! In past generations, atheists have been a rather quiet group, preferring to keep their unbelief to themselves. Crusades, witch trials, McCarthy Hearings, yeah, we're just shy. But the last 18 years has seen a sharp rise in the number of aggressive atheists POW! who proclaim their atheism WHAP! with enthusiasm BAM! and have gone on what could be called an “anti-evangelism” or “reverse evangelism” mission with the goal being the destruction of any belief in God. or we just think our voices should be heard, too. or we figured that since you weren't going to stop telling lies about us, we might want to counter that with the truth. first amendment blahblahblah establishment clause blahblahblah separation of church and state This has a chilling effect on believers as they are caught somewhat flat-footed and unprepared to defend their beliefs against the attacks of these aggressive atheists. assuming these "aggressive attacks" are real, why can't they defend their faith? why is their faith so weak that i can break it by the simple expedient of screaming "prove it!"? (not that i ever do. i sound ridiculous when i scream. imagine a 7 year old with a cold throwing a temper tantrum) This leads us to the second reason for decline.

2. The abandonment by the local church of apologetics as a major part of Christian discipline. Many Christians are unwilling or unable to defend their faith because they haven’t been systematically taught the Truth and how to defend it. The concept of absolute Truth has been under assault since mid-19th century German liberalism began to creep into the theological thinking of many Americans. Truth must be defined before it can be defended and most churches spend little or no time teaching people how to do either. Focus on the Families “Truth Project” and other Para-church attempts at promoting apologetics are good but for the most part, they are not translating into the teaching of the local church. i'm not validating the concept of capital "T" truth, but he's probably right. so many christians these days see "god said, it believe it, and that ends it" as a fantastic logical argument. it's bleeding into all argumentation. (See: Beetlebabee promotes a really stupid argument. 500 points to the first person who lists all the assumed answers)

3. The combination of traditional religious teaching with the new age concept of spirituality. The “Oprahization” i had no idea Oprah was the devil to millions of people until very recently. of the church is well under way with millions now tuning in (through TV and the web) and turning on to Oprah Winfrey’s brand of homogenized religion. Being spiritual, as defined by Eckhart Tolle and others means simply believing in a nebulous force that might work well for Star Wars Jedi but in the real world, is nothing but new age nonsense. yeah, they're very angry about this. very angry. score one for the pagans, i guess.

4. The negative portrayal of Christianity in the culture by the media liberal elites!and the proliferation of scandals within the Church. and whose fault would that be?The media loves a good church scandal no, everybody loves a scandal of any kind. it's just especially amusing to see a guy who used to preach homophobia as a virtue get caught snorting meth off the asses of gay prostitutes. good times. and unfortunately, church leaders in America have been more than happy to provide the media with plenty of material. they do seem to specialize, don't they? From pedophiles masquerading as Catholic Priests actually, i really like that. they weren't really priests, they were just pretending. sorry, no. they were pedophiliac priests. to Protestant ministers who can’t keep their wedding vows in bed! or, that's what she said!, people are losing faith in their religious leaders. The media piles on with negative portrayals of organized religion portraying the extremist Fred Phelps as an accurate picture of typical evangelicalism. no, nobody is claiming that fred is normal, but he is good tv. does this guy get what the media is in the business of selling?

5. A lack of emphasis in the Church on evangelism as defined by personal conversion and a reluctance by the Church to embrace new methods of communication for the purpose of evangelism. i was really enjoying that. damn. Many churches have stopped trying to evangelize or, they've moved on to other forms of evangelism, best described as "be nice and set a good example", which is easier on atheists and makes the world a nicer place. they're going to stop that, aren't they? and many of those that are still trying are using methods that were effective in 1955 but fail to connect in the 21st century. see also: Ray Comfort, Tony "the Lawman" Miano, et al. The Emerging Church movement tends to blur the lines between believing and belonging, hmmm? therefore minimizing the need for personal conversion. Many churches that still believe people are lost and need to be saved are still preaching the truth but the message is getting lost in all the cultural background noise. oh, HELL, YOU'RE ALL GOING TO HELL!!!!!! The Church has to find a way to cut through the static and reach people through the building of relationships. good luck with that.

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