By now, you’ve probably seen the headlines from the most recent Pew Forum study on religion in America: The number of Christians continues to decline sharply, while the number of those who are “unaffiliated” with a religion continues to grow by leaps and bounds. The “unaffiliated” group includes atheists, agnostics, and people saying they believe “nothing in particular.”
I’ve talked a lot about atheism on this blog, and I absolutely believe it’s the number one threat to our kids’ faith today. But it’s also important to understand that the group growing fastest is those who believe “nothing in particular.” Most of these people believe in some kind of God, many consider themselves “spiritual,” and some pray regularly…but they don’t identify with a specific religion.
While your kids may get pulled into atheism by its vocal proponents, they may inadvertently fall into “nothing in particular” if they aren’t raised with a faith that gives them reason to believe something specific.
Here are 6 signs your kids will eventually believe “nothing in particular.”
1. You talk about God 50 times more often than you talk about Jesus.
OK, I can’t quantify that exactly, but the point is that faith can start sounding very generic to your kids if you almost always talk about God and rarely talk about Jesus—for example, why Jesus lived on Earth, what He taught while here, who He claimed to be, who others said He was, why He had to die, and what He accomplished on the cross.
The possible result: Your kids won’t see the need for faith in Jesus—Christianity—specifically. Subsequently, any view that embraces some notion of God starts sounding roughly equivalent. That can eventually turn into a distaste for religious “labels” and a rejection of Christianity’s exclusive truth claims. Your kids might hold on to a generic view of God, but for all intents and purposes, they’ll end up believing “nothing in particular.”
2. You mix secular and biblical wisdom to the point they’re indistinguishable.
Scan your Facebook newsfeed. You’ll see links to all kinds of fluffy life wisdom that people eat up like giant turkey legs at the county fair. “Be true to yourself!” “Be an expert on you!” “Live life to the fullest!” “Here’s what you need to do to have a meaningful life!” Many Christians don’t even realize that these seemingly innocuous pieces of self-centered advice run contrary to a Christ-centered worldview. (See this post as an example.) If you’re not consciously drawing the lines for your kids between the Christian and secular worldviews, the distinctiveness of Christian living (both the what and the why) can quickly get lost in a sea of feel-good substitutes.
The possible result: Your kids start to see Christianity as just one of many options for helping them live a better life and don’t see any need to commit to it exclusively. They take the easier route and choose to believe “nothing in particular” so they can pull life wisdom from wherever they want.
3. You’re leaving your kids too many “bones to pick” with Christianity.
In my experience, many people who believe “nothing in particular” have a bone to pick with various established religions. It’s not that they actually believe nothing in particular, but that they reject everything with particulars. In case you’re wondering, here are 65 of the biggest problems people have with Christianity (my book covers 40 of them). If you’re not working with your kids on understanding these challenges, the secular world will help ensure the bones pile up to the point where your kids can no longer see how Christianity can possibly be true.
The possible result: Your kids come to see Christianity as an irreconcilable mess, even if they don’t reject the idea of God altogether…leaving them with a belief in “nothing in particular.”
4. The “Bible study” in your home is limited to devotional reading.
Almost all kids’ devotionals are lightweight as a teaching tool for Christianity. Most focus on character development and general reminders that God loves you and you should pray more. Even the meatier ones shouldn’t be a substitute for Bible study. Yes, it’s easier to read a happy little devotional each night with your kids than set aside regular time to dive into Bible study, but we’re not called to do what’s easiest.
The possible result: Your kids rarely (if ever) encounter the meat of Christianity. They grow to see it as a self-help solution, one daily bite at a time. If that’s all it is, once again, it’s indistinguishable in value from other truth claims and can easily be set aside in favor of believing “nothing in particular.”
5. You treat God like a semi-abandoned Amazon Echo.
The Amazon Echo is a new tech toy that dynamically responds to verbal communication. For example, you can ask it for the weather, to play music, to give you sports scores, to create shopping lists, and to tell jokes. My husband (always the early technology adopter) bought one. We had fun with it at first, but now it sits in the corner until one of the kids asks it to tell a joke. While it’s very powerful, we just never figured out how to integrate its existence into our daily lives. Its relevancy quickly evaporated and now it sits semi-abandoned in the kitchen corner until one of us has a sudden need for a weather report.
If your application of faith at home is nothing more than a periodic acknowledgment of God’s existence in the corners of your life, your kids will find little reason to be passionate believers.
The possible result: God becomes very, very small in your kids’ eyes. They grow to see Him as an invisible sky guy you call on when you happen to think of it. Without any notion of how to integrate His existence and truth into daily life, His relevancy slips away into a belief in “nothing in particular.”
6. You find yourself saying, “I know what I believe, but my kids will have to figure out what they believe.”
Of course kids will have to figure out what they believe. It goes without saying. If you feel the need to point this out in polite conversation, it probably means you don’t really think there is good reason to believe that Christianity alone is true. If you have the underlying mentality that faith is a matter of untethered belief, it will be blatantly obvious to your kids. (If this is you, please check out my book recommendations to learn about the objective evidence for Christianity.)
The possible result: Your kids pick up from you that religious beliefs are part of a spiritual buffet sitting on nothing but personal opinion. If they don’t think there’s any way to be confident about truth, why would they bother making a commitment? They may end up choosing to sit on the spiritual fence of “nothing in particular” indefinitely.
Do you have one to add? Go for it in the comments!