4 Reasons Christian Parents Need to Care More About Atheism

4 Reasons Christian Parents Should Care More About Atheism

Last week, the world’s first ever all-atheist TV channel officially launched. According to the press release, “Atheist TV brings consistent, quality, superstition-free programming for children and adults, on the air and on-demand, right from your regular television” (emphasis mine).

I saw a link to the press release posted in several Christian Facebook groups and watched the responses with interest. When I commented that this is a good opportunity for Christian parents to watch in order to better understand what atheists are saying to our kids, I was surprised by some of the responses.

One person commented that “we can’t fight every battle.” Several commented that they would just make sure it’s blocked from their kids. Others said there will always be non-believers, so we need to accept it and move on with teaching our kids the Bible.

While there is certainly truth there, I think these casual responses are missing an important point:

Atheism is not just one more possible challenge to our kids’ faith. It is THE most likely challenge today.

With this post, I’d like to raise awareness of why Christian parents should care so much about understanding atheist views and why we should proactively address these specific challenges to Christianity with our kids. Here are four key things you should know.

 

1. The number of Americans identifying as Christians is steadily declining, while the number of atheists and agnostics is steadily rising.

According to the 2012 Pew Forum survey of religious affiliations, the percent of Americans identifying themselves as Christian or Catholic has decreased 6% since 2007. Meanwhile, the percent of people who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” has grown by 4.3% (the survey results group these together under the heading “unaffiliated”). When you look at the survey result graphs, you can easily see that the decline in Protestantism corresponds to an increase in the unaffiliated groups.

As the number of atheists and agnostics in America continues to grow, our kids will encounter their influence more and more. Atheists especially are often passionate about their worldview and are ready and willing to engage in discussions about the reasonableness of Christianity. Whether our kids are equally ready and willing to respond lies greatly on our shoulders as parents.

 

2. Atheism is especially making inroads with young adults.

38% of atheists are 18-to 29-years old, compared with 29% of the general public. College, in particular, has become a time when kids not well equipped with a deep understanding of Christianity lose faith.

In 2012, the Fixed Point Foundation launched a very interesting nationwide campaign to interview college students who are members of Secular Student Alliances or Freethought Societies. These college groups are the atheist equivalents to Campus Crusade for Christ. They meet to fellowship, encourage each other, and even proselytize.

Researchers found that most of these students had attended church and had not chosen their beliefs from neutral positions, but rather in reaction to Christianity. The research showed in particular that “the mission and message of the churches they attended had been vague; they heard “plenty of messages encouraging ‘social justice,’ community involvement, and ‘being good,’ but they seldom saw the relationship between that message, Jesus Christ, and the Bible.” Since they didn’t see that integrated meaning, they found little incentive to stay when difficult questions arose.

When the time comes for our kids to step out the door to college, these are some of the strongest (if not the strongest) voices waiting on the other side.

 

3. The internet has enabled atheists to have a disproportionately loud voice – one your kids are certain to hear.

Even given the steadily rising numbers, the total percent of atheists and agnostics remains only about 5% in America. I believe that’s the single biggest reason many Christian parents shrug their shoulders about atheist influence – they consider them a fringe group that makes the news each Christmas when they protest manger scenes on government property.

That 5% number is highly misleading, however. Atheists and agnostics represent much more than 5% of the voices heard online because many are actively engaged in spreading their worldview – something the internet now facilitates in ways never before possible.

In fact, one of the key findings of that Fixed Point Foundation study of college atheists was that the internet factored heavily into believers’ conversion to atheism. When participants were asked to cite key influences in their conversion, they most often made “vague references to videos they had watched on YouTube or website forums.”

Check out this website of atheist memes for a good sample of the kind of stuff getting passed around. It’s sad but true that young people especially are challenged by such caricatures.

 

4. More atheist parents means there will be more atheist kids to influence your own children at a younger age.

It’s not just online or in college that our kids will encounter the influence of atheists. With more atheist parents in this generation, there are more atheist kids at school…and at church. Just yesterday in the Christian Apologetics Alliance Facebook Group, someone posted the following:

I’m the director of kids’ ministries at my church. Yesterday, we had an 8-year-old girl tell one of our helpers that she doesn’t believe in God – she believes in science. Her dad appears to be an atheist. Her mom brings her to church.

Just as Christians teach their kids about their beliefs, atheists teach their kids about theirs. Our kids will undoubtedly grow up hearing this false dichotomy of science vs. God ad nauseum.

 

So what does all this mean?

Does it mean we should fear the atheist worldview or those who adhere to it? Of course not. If Christianity is true, there are answers for every challenge (we just need to understand them).

Does it mean we should read every atheist book, watch every atheist program on the new TV channel and follow every major atheist blog? Of course not. There’s not enough time in the day.

What it means is that we need to acknowledge the significance of the atheist challenge to Christianity, understand the atheist’s core claims, and proactively talk to our kids about the atheist worldview. In my next post, I’ll talk about how to do that.

 

Have your kids encountered the atheist worldview at school or church? I’d love to hear your stories!

19 Comments

  1. Carla van Eyk on August 6, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    Hi Natasha,

    I am looking forward to more reading of your blog because I appreciate the depth of insight and application of God’s truths you share here. Having just completed the high school years of our third and last child to home educate, I am seeking the next chapter of personal learning and serving others. Your challenge to grow in this area as a Christian is timely and for all our benefit!

    Our experience with college-bound and college-degreed children is that the worldviews of atheists are as outspoken as you claim. Our oldest child befriended a college classmate on Facebook, who noticed her convicted claims for Christ. The other student sought out our daughter and invited her to one particular campus meeting of atheists to debate her views of the Bible with them. Having been instructed in an excellent worldviews homeschool curriculum for her high school years, our daughter prayerfully attended wearing her spiritual armor. The outcome was that this gal was equally willing to meet with our daughter for one-on-one Bible study for a semester, until she opted out to wrestle some more with the loving challenges to her atheist perspective. Our daughter, Elisa, continues to befriend such seekers and prays for the promise “God’s Word will not return to Him void” of his purposes.

    We remain thankful for that worldviews curriculum, among other things, that helped to equip our children in apologetics and primary sources of history reading. So glad to read that you home educate and eager to learn more from you to share with others!



  2. Destiny on August 6, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    I have a sweet 4year old girl who talks about Jesus a lot. We talk about The Lord a lot at home & tell her how he loves her so much, he’s always with her, he made her just the way she is, we pray…etc. Her & little sister go to a secular day care (I get a $200 month discount because I work for the hospital that sponsors them). When Erin was 3, her teacher told me one of the mom’s was mad cuz her daughter came home wondering about Jesus. The mom told the teacher, “We don’t say that word in our family.” That little girl goes to a different day care now. I was upset about the way the mom said “that word” like Jesus is a curse word? Then just last week, Erin told me she was talking to her friends at school about God making everything, the flowers & butterflies. She said they didn’t know who she was talking about. She was surprised & said, “Mama, they don’t know God!” My husband & I pray for our girls everyday. I would hate for someone to discourage her for talking about the L



    • gma on January 3, 2019 at 6:54 AM

      I am the grandmother of a little girl who lived with us for the first 3 1/2 years of her life,, nearly everyday. we were told we could take her to church and had her dedicated when she was one… making that promise to teach her about Jesus in our home. She now lives with her father and to be step mom who are now practicing athiests. When we have our granddaughter she still talks about Jesus and prays… but tells us that dad does not love Jesus and told me that dad said Jesus was put inot a hole in a big rock with a stone in front of it and he slept there for 3 days…. never died. She has told me that Jesus does not love her…Daddy says that. My heart breaks….



  3. Destiny on August 6, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    I would hate for someone to discourage her for talking about The Lord. That’s a reason I really appreciate this blog because I completely agree that we have to equip ourselves & our children to BE READY when we get an opportunity to talk about Our faith with others.



  4. Christina on August 6, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    I saw the Atheist Channel on our family’s Roku last night and asked my husband about it. This is a HUGE issue in my family because my brother-in-law is an atheist (and a militant one, not just merely embracing atheism for “convenience” factors) and therefore has turned my sister into an agnostic. They have three kids, expecting #4 in March. I love my sister dearly, but I am praying for her daily and raising my daughter as a born-again Christian. I know that with four cousins who will grow up with NO KNOWLEDGE OF GOD and a ton of Christianity-bashing from their father especially, this will pose a HUGE threat to my daughter’s faith. Folks, atheism is on the rise and it is A SERIOUS CONCERN. These aren’t just wayward people who have wandered from the faith, but some of them like my brother-in-law have taken an aggressive stance against it. We need to pray for atheists, let them see God’s love in us, and make sure we educate our children about what the Bible says about nonbelievers. This isn’t an issue we can or should sugar coat with our kids. Yes, it is a heartbreaking issue. I don’t like to think of my sister going to Hell. But at the same time, it should sharpen our desire to pray for them and witness to them in whatever ways we can.



  5. Kara on August 6, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    God has ordained us to be the primary teachers of His word to our children! This means that we need to know what others believe so that we can provide them with the answers to give others who are seeking truth! So thankful for your desire to help parents understand the need for apologetics, Natasha!

    My aunt told us a few months ago that she didn’t want us to talk to my cousin about God because she could figure it out on her own. Little does my aunt understand that my cousin is learning from others all the time…and much of it only confuses her further. I pray for opportunities to speak truth to her to answer those questions she has.



  6. Paul Short on August 6, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    “What it means is that we need to… understand the atheist’s core claims”

    Yes.

    This is one of the biggest hurdles in discussion, and I see it every day. Most Christian apologists are too concerned with quoting scripture and badly formed logical arguments intended on attacking atheism over claims it doesn’t make. For example, I’ve spent the last week on two different sites trying to convince two groups of Christians that theism and gnosticism are two different things and because of their misunderstanding they’re not reaching their target audience….at all.

    So I’m very keen to see how you approach this.



  7. Kara Randall on August 8, 2014 at 6:27 AM

    Hello!
    I wanted to encourage ALL Christian parents to read the book or watch the DVD kit of “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Athiest” by Frank Turek. It is AMAZING in teaching everything you need to defend your faith. It begins with the Kalam Cosmological Argument (the beginning of creation) all the way to if we can prove the reliability and truth of the Bible, specifically the New Testament. It pinpoints the necessities of knowing not only WHAT you believe but WHY you believe it!



  8. Frans on August 12, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    I live in Cape Town, South Africa. This week my 9 year old son went on a school outing to a Dinosaur exhibition, watched a video that sent the message that he has to choose between God or Science, the Big Bang or the Bible. Thankfully he was prepared and his response was outrage not confusion as we had talked about different view points that people believe and he understands the reasons why God and Science do not necessarily oppose one another



  9. Josh on August 12, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    My mother-in-law is agnostic. It breaks my heart to see this as I would love for her to find Christ and to see her in eternity. She is not a monster, but she values things that run counter to the way I’d like to see our daughter view the world. Just as great a concern or greater is that her values are inconsistent at best and our daughter is a sponge. Mostly I’m just venting concerns here. There is no way possible to completely convey the situation. Any constructive input is welcome. My best current tact is to shore up my daughter’s faith and answer her questions as honestly and diligently as I can.



  10. […] I suppose this a funny title for a post on a Christian parenting blog! But, as I often explain, we can no longer teach our kids about Christianity in a silo and expect them to automatically stand spiritually strong. The challenges today are too great. As I discussed in my last post, the atheist worldview in particular is a threat to the faith of youn…. […]



  11. Kelly Balarie on August 24, 2014 at 6:44 AM

    Thank you for your thought provoking post. It is scary to think of all the messages that will come at them, but I think this is a conversation we need to address.



  12. Lat on August 30, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    As an atheist, I find this post refreshing. We face a lot of hostility (Christians do, too, from our side. Don’t get me wrong) so it is nice to see a post like this. One in which the plain facts are presented. Being raised Christian, one of a Christian parent’s biggest responsibilities to their children is educating them in their faith. Not just, “Let’s go to church every Sunday and that should be enough.” If you’re going to believe something, have the conviction and knowledge to defend it. Kudos.



  13. […] Read more here: 4 Reasons Christian Parents Need to Care More About Atheism […]



  14. Chris Szabó on October 30, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    I find the grown of atheism in America shocking, as someone whose family fled from Communism in the 1950s and where I was later arrested for being a Christian in 1984. To me, atheism is the ultimate expression of repression and I cannot reconcile the ideas of liberty being mixed in with atheist thinking, which in my opinion, leads automatically to repression.
    Before I would wish to debate an atheist, I would like to see how they justify their mass-murders, which have never been matched in human history and continue to this day (such as in North Korea.)



  15. An Anonymous Atheist on November 19, 2014 at 9:45 PM

    Some of the comments on this post shock me. Im tired of atheism being such a dirty word. Yes we atheists will attempt to spread what we believe is the truth just as Christians do, and we ussually welcome debate. Debate will not frighten you if your belief and reasons are strong, I’ve had debates with Christians who have brought up very good points that I would not have thought about, it is a welcome experience. Please understand that atheists arent some terrible group of people, and please dont get angry at us for trying to “convert” people, as you do the same thing. I’m kind of rambling here but I just wanted to at least provide some opposing viewpoint. Often people surround themselves only with information that supports their belief, and never dare to wander into opposing information/thoughts. They feel it easier to write the other side off as group of idiots.



  16. Robert on May 26, 2015 at 7:49 PM

    I have been married 15 years and have 4 kids all of whom are devout christians along with my wife. I am an atheist myself and do not have any issues with my kids having a religion. The oldest is 12 and the youngest is 2 and they enjoy attending church and I help them with bible verses during Awanas. I was raised in a religious home and just never believed what I was told but I do not discuss religion as an open topic at home, I fear my words would be seen as authority and not my opinion anyway thanks for letting me ramble on and I find your work well written by the way.



  17. Leah on July 31, 2015 at 8:47 PM

    It’s very good that you recognize this. My situation is a little different. I became an atheist a few years ago, and promoted it to my son thinking I was doing the right thing. Well, a few months ago I became a Christian. This has all been very confusing to him, but he has seen transformations take place. He asks questions here and there and we talk about them. He’s coming around.



  18. […] I suppose this a funny title for a post on a Christian parenting blog! But, as I often explain, we can no longer teach our kids about Christianity in a silo and expect them to automatically stand spiritually strong. The challenges today are too great. As I discussed in my last post, the atheist worldview in particular is a threat to the faith of youn…. […]