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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Treat others, animals, the Earth as you would like to be treated. If you would not liked to be raised for "meat" than don't do it to another. Cherish all life. With every decision or Y in the road take the one of least harm.


We look at more worldly definitions of right vs wrong, rather than rules handed down by people who supposedly received them from a supreme being. We ask ourselves - "Does this act help the community/society, or does it hurt the community/society?" I think that's how the rules of social contract were originally developed, because there were certainly thriving human societies long before the Bible was constructed. Human dignity (the innate right to be valued and receive ethical treatment) also stems from that.

Why should one be valued and receive ethical treatment? How do we know what helps the community? (North Korea things they're "thriving" compared to the rest of the world)

Where do we get those concerns. Why would any of that matter if God did not exist. Why would anyone have morals or think that way

Disappointed about the response to the question about choosing to have a relationship with god. As an atheist, I find the question itself wrong, and expected at least one person to point it out. There is no god to have a relationship with, whether you choose to or not.

Exactly. Relationship with any "god" is really just a relationship with self, and that's enough to bring one to peace and community if one desires.

If you are a god, then make sand out of your own words. Or, fly (through the air, like a bird) without the help of anything, but your own body.

I can understand someone being an agnostic. You can look at all the realities from your position and just say, I don't know, it doesn't seem like it to me. I can't see that relationship. But I don't get how someone can be atheist--that is be sure there is no God. I happen to be color blind/deficient, and there are some color combinations that I cannot see. I do not have the audacity to suggest that since I cannot see them, therefore they do not exist. I just recognize that I cannot see them.

prove your statement.


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