Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Atheists are drinking their own Kool-Aid (And believing their own fake news)

It is not hard to find blog-popular atheists, who tend to be the least erudite of the species, gloating over a reduction in the number of self-identified Christians and the aging of congregations if not out-right shuttering of churches.

For example, the nuance-challenged champion of click-bait atheist blogging, Hemant Mehta, blogging as the “Friendly Atheist” on the patheos network, has a recent post entitled Generation Z Is Less Religious Than Ever, and Evangelicals Don’t Know Why.

Well, we may not know why for sure, but I have some thoughts on the matter.

The number of the elect presently alive, or Augustine’s “invisible church”, being preordained by God, might at any moment go up or down, although I suspect it always goes up, but one thing is for certain: the number is a not an effect of the culture or progressive thinking or atheist blogs (or Christian blogs.)

The number of cultural Christians is, rather obviously, directly influenced by the culture. The more it is acceptable for a pretender in the pews to say to himself: “I no longer feel pressure to claim Christianity” the more such folk will leave. This is a win-win. It was, until recently, quite hard for a non-believer to be up-front regarding his lack of faith. It's not so hard any more.

If (in the view of Hemant Mehta et. al.) uber-rational atheist scientific thinking is winning out, then the losses in theism should show up as a similar growth in atheism. Not so. As a recent Pew survey reports, the lion's share of the reduction in those claiming to be religious shows up in the "spiritual but not religious" camp, not in the atheist camp. From the Pew report:

Worse yet for atheists is that conservative Christian denominations, those that preach an eternal, deific, penal-substitutionary, resurrected Christ (quite worthy of crucifixion) are growing with a healthy youth component.

Young. Not aging.

A recent scholarly study by Haskell and Burgoyne reported that conservative congregations are growing while liberal mainstream congregations are shrinking, with the following demographics:

The study also concluded:
"Conservative Protestant theology, with its more literal view of the Bible, is a significant predictor of church growth while liberal theology leads to decline. "
And in terms of attracting youth, Haskell and Burgoyne found that the best way is with Christian Rock, numerous youth-based activities, and a cool, twenty-something youth pastor with whom they identify. Actually, that is not what they found. Another patheos blogger, Owen Strachan, summarizes:

"here’s what is most clear: churches that want to attract young people should do what churches should already be doing: preaching the whole counsel of God and reaching out in love to the lost. Haskell and Flatt note the importance of evangelism to numerical growth: “because of their conservative outlook, the growing church clergy members in our study took Jesus’ command to “Go make disciples” literally.” There’s no perfect formula for drawing youth, but believing and preaching truth is what God promises to bless."

Time Magazine noted this trend back in 2009, calling "New Calvinism" one of the 10 ideas changing the world. 

The bottom line is that liberal churches who worship a non-miraculous, non-deity, non-resurrected Jesus about whom some have quipped “who would even bother to crucify such a man?” are aging and rotting. But for the most part the departing congregants are not embracing atheism, but rather some form of spiritualism. They are embracing not science (which the younger ones probably view as a mere social construct) but crystals, alternative medicine, astrology, and other forms of pseudo-science. Meanwhile the conservative churches, although always a smaller piece of the total pie, are growing and are not aging.

If I were a hard-core atheist I’d hardly look at this as a welcomed development.

Keep sipping that Kool-Aid, Hemant.

It is hard to talk about this without mentioning one of the all-time epic fails. Twenty years ago the ultra-liberal Bishop Spong wrote a bestseller Why Christianity Must Change Or Die. In this seminal work, he argued that the only way for Christianity to survive was to adopt his "Jesus was a good teacher" non-miraculous liberal Christianity and abandon that ugly, superstitious conservative evangelicalism. Fast forward to today, and we find that the churches that followed Spong's advice are teetering on extinction. You didn't really nail that one, did you Bishop Spong?


  1. Nailed it. But you might prefer to correct the name: Hemant Mehta.

  2. Doug,
    Argggh! Thanks!