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),  Head of Content / Executive Editor 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

I sat down a year and a half ago to write my own essay about why I was no longer Catholic and would never again profess any organized religion. I published it on my blog, here: http://bardicvoice.livejournal.com/81607.html

Congradulations,,, with your progress.

They got the question right. We should always be asking ourselves how to be good and do the right thing. Daniel said it best, Christianity does not supply that. In my search for guidance I found modern philosophers much more helpful and any decent morality found in the Bible I could also find elsewhere. People who claim morality is coming from God, as far as I can tell, already had their morals figured out, then found verification in religion and did not look any further. It is a simple answer, and it is comfortable that a lot of other people confirm it. Those others also are not looking outside their one book.

How can you, Daniel, or anyone say Christianity does not supply a framework for being good and doing the right thing? That could not be further from the truth.

It should be obvious that you can find morality outside the Bible. But what you cannot find in abundance, outside the Bible, is a system that doesn't just identify virtuous behavior but actually walks you step-by-step to and through being good and doing the right thing too.

As for the rest of your comment, it's just a bungled mess of assumptions. One might find useful moral concepts in modern philosophy, sure. But to denounce the convictions of Christianity is to deny the truth of why we're here and why we need to behave in a way that's acceptable to our creator.

Your criticism are simply aimed (and poorly so) at man, not God or his inspired word. If you had a clue about the Bible, your comments would not appear so baseless and naive.

Well said! The collective books in the Bible have endured millennia plus & provided instruction to all answering the call of our Heavenly Father God & his Son our Lord Jesus. Study & meditate on those bibical words, find a translation or 2 or 3 and seek the eternal salvation, for this world & life are but fleeting moments in time with no rest for those who cannot enter because they died w/o accepting and believing in the ONE true Father thru the acceptance of his Son's supreme sacrifice!

You are truly delusional. Good Luck !

why is he delusional

I totally disagree with you. You are spouting childhood indoctrination.

I completely lost my faith in anything God or supernatural while in my 30s (I'm 50 now). It just didn't compute upon investigation. With all the information of the world at your fingertips young people are going to be less likely to remain religious if raised that way.

You're wrong. Investigate harder. Put your calculator away and try The Truth Project. There is plenty more if you're actually willing to investigate and not just make excuses.

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