Leaving Your Faith Behind: Three Young Atheists on Why They Turned Away from Christianity

Friday, October 18, 2013 - 6:55am
Leaving Your Faith Behind: Three Young Atheists on Why They Turned Away from Christianity

Why are atheism and agnosticism on the rise? And what does it take to go against your family's faith? Three young atheists discuss how they began to question their faith and what it was like to leave the church.

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Trent Gilliss (@TrentGilliss),  Executive Editor / Chief Content Officer for On Being
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What is the path from God to no god?

John Hockenberry leads with this intriguing question as part of The Takeaway's week-long series "Young Nation Under God?" As you'll hear from these three young non-believers, one's personal identity is intertwined in these former Christians' origin stories and family faith.

Daniel Munoz, Amber van Natten, and Emily Peterson give voice to why atheism and agnosticism are on the rise in the U.S. Now more than 25 percent of of millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) have left organized religion. They offer insights into the challenge of actively leaving their traditions behind and why they are compelled to do so:

"The more silent people were about their nonbelief, the more shameful it was to be outed as a nonbeliever."

How is your faith changing over time?

Like philosopher Alain de Botton, they also see some good in religious traditions. Amber van Natten looks to Buddhist principles, meditation, and yoga. Daniel Munoz says that he draws from the Catholic lessons of his past:

"People in my group know that religion offers people some very valuable things. But, there's a lot of stuff we disagree with. In fact, personal relationship with God, even the rituals. So we're trying to find the parts of religion we do see as valuable, like communion, brotherhood, sisterhood, and keep that but get rid of the superstition. Stuff we think is morally unacceptable."

Want to talk about the changing role of religion in American life. Join John Hockenberry today (Friday, October 18) at 2:00 pm ET to participate in a live online chat. How has your religious identity changed? Does faith still play an important role in your life? Are you concerned that young people are leaving religious institutions? Whatever questions or comments you have, add your voice to the conversation.

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Trent Gilliss is the driving editorial and creative force behind On Being. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi" and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent's reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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40Reflections

The Truth project is terrible. I watched it when trying to find the best evidence for theism, and was sorely disappointed.

I agree.

If you have not found your way out of superstition, I indeed, pity you.

I agree with your statement. It took me 35 years to give up 'imaginary' faith. Now, Cosmicism is my foundation.

Joseph... there's no proof that you aren't the center of the universe no matter what Lovecraft says. In the end, if all you are is pretty much meaningless, then you shouldn't even worry about anything. Nor, should you be concerned with anyone else since they're pretty much meaningless. You are UTTERLY insignificant. Dang... that's too bad you feel so lowly about yourself. I know I'm a sinner, but I'm not insignificant! Nor, are you.

explain how water came to be originally

My only question to the atheist community is that how does one know the right from wrong? Where does the righteousness of human dignity originate from? How did we set-up the rules of social contract?

Apparently not from the holy books which justify, support and promote just to name a few: slavery, smiting of apostates, stoning of adulterers, women's subordination to men, demonizing of homosexuals, and genital mutilation while prohibiting the consumption of pork, shellfish and wine.

Edison.... you have lots of misconceptions here. First of all, you pick and choose the O.T instead of the N.T, which has been done away with if one is a Christian. Why don't you pick one subject and let's see if we can work through it. Taking things out of context, scripture twisting, false teachings (Apostates) all come into play.

However, the biggest issue I see with people who don't like rules is that they don't like rules and want to do as they wish. If there is a God, why wouldn't He have rules to live by?

Not at all familiar with the O.T. having "been done away with". Please show us where in the N.T. it says the O.T. has been done away with. If it doesn't -and it actually doesn't- that would mean YOU are doing away with it - blaspheming your holy infallible scriptures, tsk tsk tsk. What's more, jews, remember them? They are the Judeo part in Judeo-Christian; they will be so thrilled to hear you "did away" with their scriptures that you might even be in for some old fashioned stoning -and I don't mean the THC induced kind.

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