Why People Leave Christianity

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I just read an excellent academic article from the Journal of Religion and Society  entitled “Explaining Deconversion from Christianity.” I was referred to it by another blog (ReligionandMore.wordpress.com).

Since I rejected the Christian faith several years ago, I was interested to know why others had followed the same pathway.

  • One ex-Fundamentalist said he left because of the ongoing battle within himself between faith and reason. Eventually, he said, reason could no longer be suppressed.
  • Numerous ex-Christians expressed concerns about the doctrine of hell. For them, eternal punishment simply did not fit with their conception of a loving God. One questioned why God would create the human race and then knowing we would sin against him, send us to spend eternity in burning and suffering. Others could not reconcile that God would send their loved ones to hell simply because they did not believe in Christianity.
  • Many had problems with the idea of God’s passivity with suffering, whether individually or globally (tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.).
  • Some mentioned God’s active role in suffering, especially as described in the Old Testament.
  • The bible itself also played a role, both in relation to the many unbelievable stories (see my “Outrageous!” posting), as well as the fact that, scientifically, many of the described events could not have happened.
  • A large percentage of people, while believing in the existence of God, could not understand why he didn’t help them in their time of trouble. In other words, their prayers went unanswered. Some felt that God did not keep his promises (ask and you shall receive, follow me and I will bless you, bring your tithes and I will open the windows of heaven, etc.)
  • Many felt they had done their part – praying, waiting, being faithful – but God had failed them or let them down.
  • Not surprisingly, many left Christianity because of other Christians (hypocrisy, being judgmental). Plus they tired of “pat” phrases (e.g., “God works in mysterious ways,” “God will never put more on you than you can bear,” “It was God’s will”) whenever they faced some kind of crisis and needed moral support.
  • Church leaders also played a role because they could not provide satisfying answers to perplexing concerns. Instead, they would instruct the person to read the bible or pray about it.

According to the article, in nearly every instance the ex-Christians expressed no ambiguity. They made their decisions based in complete certainty and experienced no regrets.

Amen to that.

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6 thoughts on “Why People Leave Christianity

  1. Thank you for your comment, but I stand firm — and unafraid — in my decision.

    In fact, the fear and guilt that Christianity produces was one of MY reasons for leaving.

    God is so much more than the entity presented in the bible. May you someday discover this truth in your own heart and life.

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  2. My question is, are people turning their back on the Church or Jesus/God?

    I can see why people leave the church: hyporcracy, misinterpretation of scirpture, using scripture to condemn…etc.

    What I can’t see is people giving up on Jesus’s teachings of love, caring, helping others…etc. There is a good book series called “They like Jesus but not the Church” by Dan Kimball. I think you should take a look at it. I agree that many people are leaving the church but they aren’t Leaving Jesus. They may not believe in heaven or hell, but I tend to think that they still believe in love and helping others.

    Thank you for taking the time for commenting on my blog and I hope you continue to read. http://followinginthefootsteps.wordpress.com/

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  3. @FITF — You make an excellent point that some people who have left Christianity still believe in love and helping others so, in essence, they are still following Jesus.

    However, I’m not sure that those who reject Christianity for the reasons listed in my posting see it that way. For them, it’s all wrapped up together and they want nothing more to do with any of it.

    I find your blog very thought-provoking and you can be assured I will visit from time to time.

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  4. I left the Christendom churches, but not Jesus and God. I believe like the other prophets Jesus was sent for a reason..to teach the jews of that time and in return they passed it down. however the way the churches are today(and I have been with them over 13 yrs) I just got burned out by the “this church is better then that one” attitude! i’m now on sebatical and just letting God take control.
    Do I read the bible still? Yes, but more as a history book, i learn from it and move forward. I also read the book of mormon, the Quran and other useful books. this way I can see God worknig in all cultures, but remember there is only 1God above all and this is who I give my time to. not a pastor or a church taking my money nor valuble time .See for me the churches want people to come to Christ, but they donot take the time to show you what to do next! that is not why God sent Jesus for, he sent him to teach others and direct. and this is what we should try to do with others. not judge them because we disagree on things.

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  5. I do not regularly attend church, but I do know that fellowship with other Christians is paramount in not getting so easily distracted amongst this world where “everything goes”. I do read The Bible, and believe wholly in Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. I, also, believe that Good Works are not done to get to Heaven, but rather as a passionate response to our gratitude to God, Our Father, Who gave to us a Way Out by sacrificing His Son, Jesus Christ. And, of course, Jesus willingly obliged despite the excruciating pain and untold misery He knew He would be enduring in His human form. This is because He loves us.

    Tamara

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