Secularists: It’s Christians who are killing Christianity

A joyous full immersion baptismBefore I explain how Christians are killing Christianity (at least according to Alternet and Salon), a short anecdote:  I have friends who used to joke that they would take up smoking when their kids were teens.  Why?  So that the kids, who they assumed would be rebellious, would rebel against Mom and Dad by not smoking.  And now back to Alternet/Salon, where an atheist triumphantly reports that, not only is Christianity dying in America, but also that children raised in Christian homes are part of the demographic most enthusiastically embracing atheism:

The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over-zealousness of the Christian Right.

Speaking facetiously, I would suggest that, as children in Christian households become teens, their parents ought to indulge in a little Satan worship to help drive their rebellious youngsters back into the religious fold.  On a more serious note, the fact is that young people do rebel . . . and that older people seem to crave faith.  It’s natural when you’re invincible (as all young people are) to feel that you don’t need a God.  And it’s equally natural that, as you age, and see the chaos inherent in the world and feel mortality breathing down your neck, that faith starts to seem like a light and a refuge.  I wouldn’t immediately start panicking about non-religious millennials.

Another analogy relevant to this issue:  Imagine a family with a dog.  One owner hates begging dogs and refuses to feed the dog table scraps.  The other owner loves feeding table scraps.  Torn between the two owners, it’s no contest:  The dog will become a beggar.  The lowest common denominator behavior always wins.

Christianity makes demands upon its adherents.  You have to elevate yourself against your baser instincts.  American secularism, by contrast, encourages people to indulge their baser instincts (mostly their sexual ones).  In a competition between the two, the lowest common denominator behavior will prevail.

Here’s hope, though:  Humans aren’t dogs.  Dogs will beg until they’re too fat to move and everyone hates having them around . . . and they’ll still beg.  Humans, however, have a sense of self-worth that dogs lack.  Unlike dogs, humans have to look at themselves in the mirror and many of them who have spent years living the self-indulgent life of the secularist don’t like what they see.  Religion promises redemption.

Anyway, this is a bit of a choppy post, so I’d very much like to hear what you have to say on the subject.  I think what I’m trying to say is that Christians shouldn’t give up the fight to raise their children in the faith, no matter the numbers.  And having said that, here’s one more choppy point:  secularism ultimately is very thin gruel, since it doesn’t offer answers addressing every thinking person’s existential anxiety.  Faith always fills the vacuum . . . and Islam is the most aggressive faith in the world, one that has no compunction about alternately enticing and bullying lost souls to get on board.

(And while we’re on the subject of faith, David Goldman analyzes the faith underlying modern secularism.)

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  1. says

    What non religion? The very topic of the article is the creation of a new religion, not atheism or skepticism. They don’t believe God is non existent. They THINK THEIR GOD IS MORE POWERFUL than the Christian one. That’s not non religion.

  2. Mike Devx says

    I think the Goldman article explains a lot.
    The killer quote from the book he is, essentially, reviewing:
    … the post-Protestant experience resembles the supernatural world of the Middle Ages, but with new spiritual entities in place of the old devils and elves: “social and political ideas elevated to the status of strange divinities . . . born of the ancient religious hunger to perceive more in the world than just the give and take of ordinary human beings, but adapted to an age that piously congratulates itself on its escape from many of the strictures of ancient religion.”
    We [skeptics] like to say that global warming has all the trappings of a religion.  Every accusation that anyone has ever made against a religion and its adherents can be made against the global warming movements and its adherents.
    Yet we also like to state that rational secularists are living hollow lives because they lack religion.  Goldman’s author is arguing that we’re wrong.  The secularists DO elevate every one of hteir causes to a mystical status, and they adhere to these causes with religious zeal.  They ARE living religious lives, though we can’t see them as such.
    They don’t approach their causes at the level we do; they elevate their causes to a mysticism; they surround themselves with mystic zeal.  They are immune, impervious, and hostile to rational argument. And that makes sense:  When you *live* your causes mystically, as though they are religious… when your view of yourself as being “worthy of exaltation” is dependent upon sticking to the cause, you’re not going to be moved or swayed by anyone’s debate points or rational arguments.
    Have you ever listened to a Christian and non-Christian debate (over bar-stools, say) the reasons they believe the Bible to be factual, or to believe that Jesus Christ was real and must have been the Son of God (or not)?  I always walk away from such debates as an utter waste of time except for their entertainment value, and the chance for insight, not into facts or reality, but rather HOW people tend to think.
    So, yes, conservatives typically believe in a Christian God, and believe that exaltation will occur when we are admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Secularists create a religion of every cause and elevate each to a pagan mystical experience, and exaltation occurs in the here and now with devotion to each and every cause.
    Don’t bother arguing with them or changing their mind.  Or if you do, the best you should hope for is plant a few seeds.  Maybe over the years one or more of those seeds will take root.  Don’t hold your breath.

  3. says

    What a joke. They have been predicting the end of religious belief (supposedly all religious belief) for a long time now and it hasn’t happened.  The 21st century was supposed to be the century of the enlightened and very secular mind but that is not how it turned out.
    The truth is the atheists have lost and lost big. They are using statistics for Christian teens because they know Islam is growing and they can’t stand up to it so they create little victories for themselves. Show an atheist a hijab and he’ll wear it (and no that wasn’t a typo).
    Every religious institution you pass on the street was not built with government money. They were built by the sweat and belief of their followers and they are there in plain view by the thousands. How many secular institutions for gender identity, etc. would there be if the followers were opening their own pockets? Maybe one.

  4. Charles Martel says

    Mike, I agree with you about those bar debates. The divide between secularists and Christians is as wide as the gulf between the rich man in Hell and Lazarus in Heaven in the New Testament.
    Preaching Christianity obviously does not work when even supposedly well-evangelized kids reared in nominally Christian households turn to leftism and sex as they near adulthood. So we’re back to St. Francis’ admonition to preach the gospel tirelessly, and when necessary, use words. The seeds you refer to probably can only come now from example rather than debates or sermons.
    A side note: I saw a video of a young Sicilian nun who appeared on the Italian version of The Voice doing a wonderful rendition of Adele’s “No One.” The Voice’s gimmick is that the four judges listen to contestants with their backs turned to them so that the constestants’ appearance does not detract from appreciating their talent. If a judge turns to face the contestant, it means that he wants to put him on his team and mentor him. You can imagine the looks of utter surprise on all four judges’ faces as each in turn swiveled to see who belonged to the lovely voice they were hearing. They and audience were blown away by the unexpected sight of a young woman in a nun’s habit.
    What came across most was the nun’s vivacity (her convent mates who were there to see her performance were just as joyous and lively). The crowd ate it up. Mike, a seed or two was planted.
    Show, don’t tell.

  5. lee says

    People crow (or weep) over the demise of fill-in-the-blank organized religion because statistics show young members leaving the fold. Before I begin, I have to say, “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Now that that is put of the way….
    As people leave the cafeteria churches (pick and choose what suits you; goes for synagogues, too), some go for atheism, some go for some sort of amorphous feel-good modern melange, and some go for more structure. Reform kids becoming baalai-tshuva is nothing new. I periodically wonder why the Johnny Lindhs of Marin join up with hardcore Moslems. Maybe they miss being brought up with structure, a definite sense of moral boundaries. They go for extreme…

  6. Libby says

    I know this isn’t the point of your post, but I think the correct answer is that Islam is what’s literally killing Christianity with a level of zeal and brutality that is staggering. But why bother acknowledging the bloody Christian genocide being carried out by Boko Haram and the Muslim Brotherhood halfway around the world when you can just snark on American Christians whose children became atheists?
    * * * *
    Getting back to the linked Salon article: It’s amazing that in surveying the external factors that would influence these Christian-raised folks to become atheists, the author (and possibly also the studies quoted) doesn’t even mention the media-entertainment industry that so heavily influences our secular, anti-Christian culture. I don’t have any statistics, but just from my own experience, positive depictions of Christians in the media-entertainment industry are incredibly rare (for example: just try finding *one* decent Christian character in the long-running Law & Order series; you can’t, they’re all jerks or perps). But no, it must be that these kids were turned off by fervent parents and Focus on the Family.

  7. Ron19 says

    I was raised in Catholic schools, and started leaving the Church in my high school senior year, after I had been switched to the local county high school.  The break widened after I went to a state university, and I was completely finished after a few years in the military.
    30 years later, I came back.  I have been so glad that I didn’t have to start from scratch to figure out what to learn and believe.  For two decades now I have reviewed what I had learned about issues as they came up, and searched for new information in the right places.   The answers were there all the time, and they are still valid.
    You don’t expect your children to find their way back to you if you abandoned them as infants; they have nothing to come back to except curiosity and health issues.  I was fortunate.  Thanks to my mother’s determination and prayers, I had something to come back to when I was ready.

  8. lee says

    I recall one December sitting in aarim restaurant eavesdropping on a couple with a young child explaining the significance of the Winter Solstice. Like it was their major holiday (ad in “holy day”), and they were NOT Zoroastrians. They were full of so much crap.

  9. Charles Martel says

    Islam is certainly Christianity’s (and Judaism’s) mortal enemy, but it will not succeed at winning in the Third World or in China. The West is too decrepit and cowardly to defend Christianity, which it despises, so Islam will continue making great inroads here. But the Chinese, who are not anywhere near as delicate in their sensibilities as westerners, will happily nuke any Muslim power that decides it wants to play in the big sandbox. And as it enters its death throes, don’t discount Russia. That pathetic collection of drunks could decide to spatter some thermonukes among a few hundred million Mohammedans.

  10. Tara S says

    “[S]ecularism ultimately is very thin gruel, since it doesn’t offer answers addressing every thinking person’s existential anxiety.”
    True, and Christianity at its best (or should I say, Christians at their best) can certainly help to provide those answers. There’s some substantial worry going around in online Christian circles, though, about the fact that modern Christian culture is NOT at its best. Christian attempts to mimic and fit in with mainstream secular culture result in a lot of <a href=”” title=”watered-down, feel-good fluff”> that is, unfortunately, the only exposure to Christianity that a lot of people get, and it just isn’t satisfying — either intellectually or, ultimately, emotionally. In that sense, it’s not entirely incorrect to say that Christians are helping to undermine Christianity.
    (Apologies in advance if that HTML link doesn’t work.)

  11. says

    In Arthur Koestler’s sadly-neglected novel of ideas, The Age of Longing, one character says:
    “You cannot cure aberrations of the political libido by arguments…Now the source of all political libido is faith, and its object is the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Lost Paradise, Utopia, what have you. Therefore each time a god dies there is trouble in History. People feel that they have been cheated by his promises, left with a dud check in their pocket. The last time a god died was on July 14, 1789, the day when the Bastille was stormed. On that day the Holy Trinity was replaced by the three-word slogan which you find written over our town halls and post offices. Europe has not yet recovered from that operation, and all our troubles today are secondary complications. The People–and when I use that word, Mademoiselle, I always refer to people who have no bank accounts–the people have been deprived of their only asset: the knowledge, or the illusion, whichever you like, of having an immortal soul. Their faith is dead, their kingdom is dead, only the longing remains. And this longing, Mademoiselle, can express itself in beautiful or murderous forms, just like the frustrated sex instinct…Only the longing remains–a dumb, inarticulate longing of the instinct, without knowledge of its source and object. So the people, the masses, mill around with that irksome feeling of having an uncashed check in their pockets and whoever tells them ‘Oyez, oyez, the Kingdom is just round the corner, in the second street to the left,’ can do with them what he likes.”
    …and the thoughts of another are expressed thusly:
    Her thoughts travelled back to Sister Boutillot standing in the alley which led to the pond…Oh, if she could only go back to the infinite comfort of father confessors and mother superiors, of a well-ordered hierarchy which promised punishment and reward, and furnished the world with justice and meaning. If only one could go back! But she was under the curse of reason, which rejected whatever might quench her thirst without abolishing the gnawing of the urge; which rejected the answer without abolishing the question. For the place of God had become vacant and there was a draught blowing through the world as in an empty flat before the new tenants have arrived.
    (My review of the book here)

  12. says

    The only way to convince a true believer or zealot that they are wrong is to destroy the foundations of their belief, the authority of their faith itself. Until they fear your god more than they obey their god, you will always fail at dropping hints.
    It’s about a war between beliefs, there are winners and losers.

  13. Mike Devx says

    Interesting comments, all!  Absorbing what everyone says… I wonder if the best approach to arguing with a liberal publicly isn’t just to smile at them and say, “Well, the big question is “what is the meaning of life?”  And if total and blind devotion to a set of pet causes is your answer for the meaning of life… if that’s enough to satisfy you and fill you, then I’m happy for you.  Have a good day.”  And leave them to simmer.

  14. says

    Danny…”Paradise Lost”…here’s something from another great novel of ideas, Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz:
    The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they became with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier to see something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow.
    When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn. Well, they were going to destroy it again, were they-this garden Earth, civilized and knowing, to be torn apart again that Man might hope again in wretched darkness. 

  15. Jose says

    Atheist: “The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant”
    Not really – Thus it has always been.
    Strait is the way and narrow is the gate, and few there be that find it.

  16. Charles Martel says

    David Foster, I read your review and have to say what a pleasure it is to share space here in Bookworm Room with such a fine writer and thinker.
    Your citation of “A Canticle for Leibowitz,” is so apt. There is something bent in our nature, a profound ingratitude, that unless we see and struggle with it, can take over our lives: “…it was easier to see something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow.” 

  17. Danny Lemieux says

    David Foster, I echo Hammer’s thoughts.
    You once, long ago, cited A Canticle for Leibowitz on this blog. I immediately Googled Amazon and ordered it. That book still resonates with me as a profound study of human nature.

  18. says

    it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn. “
    The greater the light, the darker and deeper the shadows.
    The people will have given up a Golden Age, solely because they never earned it and thus never came to appreciate the cost and sacrifices of one. Humans will never come to value what they have not worked for, sacrificed for, and bled for. It was true of the Iraqis when given “freedom”. It was true of Americans when given global supremacy and wealth. The better things are, the worse they will get. The worst things are, the better humanity shines in the challenge.
    Heroes are only created due to some tyrant’s F ups.

  19. says

    Ymarsakar…”The people will have given up a Golden Age, solely because they never earned it and thus never came to appreciate the cost and sacrifices of one”…reminds me of one more quote, this one from Antoine de St-Exupery:
    “If you would have them be brothers, have them build a tower. But if you would have them hate each other, throw them corn “

  20. says

    Btw, in time the Iraqis did attempt to take part in their own liberation, the only way to truly be free without being indebted or enslaved by foreign powers.
    But early on during General “Diversity” Casey’s “iraqi face” occupation plan (think Ft. Hood and Fallujah 1 AWOLs), this was more like lip service designed to cover up total military failures.
    Diversity Casey was CONFISCATING the AKs of families in the Sunni Triangle, making them more vulnerable to AQ and Shia death squads, then touting his own expertise and training productions by pointing to the number of Iraqi military and police forces. No wonder the entire region went up in flames to insurgency. You may increase California’s police forces by 100x, but if nobody is armed, your crime shoots up by 100,000 TIMES. There is no equivalent ratio there.

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