A Case Study of a Christian Turned Atheist

A Case Study of a Christian Turned Atheist

In my next post, I’ll be returning to the 65 Questions Every Christian Parent Needs to Learn to Answer series. But I wanted to spend some time today to give you a “case study” that demonstrates the importance of getting serious about spiritually preparing our kids for the world.

It comes from a comment I received recently on my post, 8 Reasons Why Kids Don’t Want to Go to Church, from someone who grew up in church but turned away from Christianity as an adult. I decided not to publish it as a comment on that post because I wanted to address it here without the commenter’s name attached.

This person’s comment includes several points of popular rationale for leaving Christianity. It’s (unfortunately) an excellent example of the worldview competing for your child’s heart and mind.

Below is the person’s comment, with my responses to you, as a Christian parent, in red italics.

*****

Doubting the existence of god (especially the biblical god) should be number one on the list, not number seven. [He is referring to the list of 8 Reasons Kids Don't Want to Go to Church.]  Within that category might include a deistic belief in an unknowable god or in a god that doesn’t resemble a personal monotheistic god such as a “cosmic consciousness” held by branches of Buddhism. The point is Christianity is but one of vast number of beliefs and god concepts. [Yes, Christianity is one of a vast number of beliefs and "god concepts." So is atheism. The number of competing ideas says nothing about their relative truth. Our kids need to not only be aware of the many religions/worldviews in existence today, but how they relate to Christianity, and why they logically can't all be true.]

We no longer live in closed monotheistic Christian cocoons. Multiculturalism and the information age expose us to a hugely diverse range of ideas and beliefs; many in stark opposition to Christian doctrine. [Well said! If you're a Christian parent, please read these two sentences over and over and over. If you think it's enough to simply teach your kids the core beliefs of Christianity without worrying about how to appropriately defend those beliefs (apologetics), please take what he is saying to heart. It's our responsibility to know the tough questions being asked and to proactively engage our kids in discussing answers from a Christian worldview.]   

It is a battle ground of ideas and Christianity is not faring so well. [Indeed it is a battleground of ideas. And, in some respects, I agree with his assessment that Christianity isn't always faring well – not because Christianity itself doesn't fare well against competing ideas, but because many Christians are not prepared to engage in the battle on Christianity's behalf. When we aren't prepared to answer tough questions – for example, why exactly we believe that the resurrection was a historical event that provides reasonable evidence for a belief in Jesus as God – we are irresponsibly adding to the secular perception that Christianity does not "fare well" compared to other worldviews.]

I was one of those doubting skeptical kids and I still am twenty years later. The turning point for me was after I read the bible followed up by a history of religion course. [Last year, I interviewed a secular world religion teacher and wrote a post called, "Will a World Religion Class Shake Your Kids' Faith?" This is a perfect example of someone whose faith was shaken by being exposed to non-Christian ideas for the first time. Take the time to check out that post – it's very eye-opening.]  I never quite realized just how absurd and nonsensical Christian claims were until I read the bible. [It's critical that our kids understand the Bible IS weird/contrary to our everyday experience. Check out my posts, "Make Sure Your Kids Know the Bible is Weird Part 1 and Part 2". If you don't study the Bible with your kids, they simply won't be prepared to deal with its apparent oddities when they eventually encounter them on their own. Barna Group research shows that less than 10% of all Christian families read the Bible together. This is an enormous problem for our ability to raise kids who are prepared to faithfully deal with biblical challenges.]  Its stories and claims for miracles defy science, reason and believability. [The definition of a miracle is something outside of the explanation of natural laws. Be sure to read my recent post, "What Exactly is a Biblical Miracle?" for some key points your kids need to understand. As for "reason and believability," this is the most common attack on Christianity today – that Christianity is opposed to reason. This is simply a false dichotomy, and one that our kids need to learn to think critically about. There is significant evidence for God's existence, the resurrection of Jesus and the reliability of the Bible. Our kids need to understand that Christians believe because of the evidence, NOT in spite of it. We, as parents, then need to be educated on – you guessed it – apologetics to teach them that evidence.]   

Perhaps the greatest absurdity of all is Christian scape goat theology that holds that the torture and murder of an innocent redeems the guilty, as if guilt is somehow transferable characteristic. [This is a good example of the emotional appeals to "common sense" that I wrote about in my guest post, "Preparing Kids to Encounter Atheism Online." In the way it's phrased, it seems pretty crazy. But appealing to our emotional reaction says nothing about whether or not God indeed worked that way through Jesus. We need to teach our kids how to identify emotional appeals and separate the search for truth based on evidence from the search for truth based on what makes personal sense to us.] And worse yet is the obscene notion held by fundamentalists that we are a fallen, inherently wicked species, evil by our nature and born guilty… guilty of being less than perfect; less perfect than a god. [Atheists commonly find the Christian notion of a sin nature repugnant. The question of whether we are fundamentally "good" or "bad" is one that deserves much attention with our kids. Of course, if an atheist says he/she believes people are fundamentally good, it begs the question of where the person is getting their standard of good/bad from. Without a moral law giver, that's a tough one to answer.]

The study of ancient religions reveals strong similarities dating back to the oldest of them, some much older than Christianity. Parallels between stories in the bible and that of earlier Pagan, Babylonian and Greek mythologies are remarkably alike almost to the point of plagiarism. The point for point similarities are so great it convincingly demonstrates that Christianity has drawn a great deal of its content from other religions. [It's becoming more and more common to hear people make these claims.  J Warner Wallace has written several excellent articles about the topic. Check out "Why the Pre-Jesus Mythologies Fail to Prove Jesus is a Myth" as a starting point.]

Everyone has their own reasons for abandoning their formative faith. But a renewed interest in skepticism and independent critical thinking have set the stage for growing numbers of young atheists. [I'm thrilled that independent critical thinking is part of the mental environment today. No one needs a blind faith. But our kids need to understand that critical thinking is a skill set, not an antithesis to faith. There are Christians who are critical thinkers, and Christians who are not. There are atheists who are critical thinkers, and atheists who are not. One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is an understanding of how to think critically about faith. Critical thinking is something to be embraced, not feared.]  

In the UK stats show that 60% of teens and young adults call themselves atheist, up 15% since 1995. While the number of young atheists in the US is considerably less the growth rate of atheism is still high. Higher than for any religion in the industrialized world. The real question for a Christian is can your belief system prevail on the playing field of ideas. My answer is no, at least not any more. [I find the ending of this comment to be very sad. There are many robust answers to intellectual questions from a Christian worldview. It seems that this person did not grow up engaging in these tougher questions of faith, however. The result is a belief that Christianity can't hold its own. What an unfortunate conclusion. We can't make our kids Christians, but we owe it to them to give them a robust spiritual training so they're ready for the battle today. Our kids need spiritual armor more than ever. How much are you giving them?]

*****

Do any of these perceptions of Christianity surprise you? Which do you hear or see most regularly? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

As a side note to atheists who may come across this post, I don’t have the time to engage in a debate over each of the points made here. This person’s comment was like a broad sweep across topics that cover many books, and we’re not going to resolve anything in blog post comments back and forth. Because I don’t have the time to engage in extended discussion, I moderate all comments and won’t publish anything that is simply seeking antagonistic debate.

Subscribe to the blog
Receive new posts via email!

Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this! I hear a lot of the “Christianity stole pagan rituals, etc.” a lot! Just a great reminder that we really need to fortify our kids. We’re ALL going to need it!

    Sincerely,
    A Pastor’s Wife

  2. Wow, wow, and wow…is all I can say. This is an awesome post! I have young children who are just now learning Bible stories and I never really stopped to think just how much teaching and preparation we have ahead of us! It is sooo important to teach them to defend their faith and understand their faith in this crazy world with all the false teachings they will come across. We have to teach them to the best of our abilities and cover them in prayer for the rest. I do believe that anyone who fell away from God can also be brought back no matter how confused he or she may become. There is still hope for those : )

    • Hi Christyn, Thanks for your comment! My children are young too (5 and under). They are able to learn so much though! We’ve already been talking to them about many of the topics here, in an age appropriate way (e.g., why some people don’t believe in God, why miracles were important for proving who God was, etc.). We have a lot to do as parents, but there is no more important job for us than this! And you make a great point – there is always hope for those who fall away to come back. Thanks again!

  3. I find it interesting that they even found your post and took the time to answer. So if they are atheist, why are they reading the “Christian Mom” blog? It seems to me that the person has not been in a good bible teaching church either. There are plenty of those around as well. Praying because they took the time to answer that there is still a small desire in the person’s heart to have a relationship with the creator.

    • Hi Pam, Atheists actually love to troll around Christian sites. You would be surprised how many comments I get telling me how I’m indoctrinating my children, how I live in a fantasy land for being a Christian, how I’m stupid for believing in God, how science proves there is no God, etc. I do hope, as you said, that someone might go away with a small seed of desire to understand more about Christianity.

  4. David Crain says:

    “Atheists commonly find the Christian notion of a sin nature repugnant,” is statement within a larger context that says, “At bottom, most atheists became that way because they can’t bear the thought of standing before a God who judges.” The term “God fearing man” describes a believer who understands the concept of sin and God’s judgement.

    • It’s really interesting, because atheists have no basis for declaring ANYTHING good of evil. If there is no moral law giver, there is no such thing as morality. We are just animals. I think that’s why most atheists find the idea repugnant – they assume we are no different than animals, so why should we be held accountable for anything we do?

  5. It doesn’t surprise me, it scares me. I have a feeling I’ll wear the skin off my knees from praying without ceasing for my children to have a full understanding of their Christian faith and a love for the Lord throughout their life. I realize it’s my and my husband’s job to equip them and teach them, but I can’t do it without God showing me the way. I have way too many of my own questions, some of which will never be answered this side of heaven. I’m not a theologian. I’m not an educator. I don’t easily grasp apologetics. It’s all very overwhelming to me. I guess you could say I have child-like faith. It works for me. I’ve seen God’s hand work powerfully in my life and that’s good enough for me to believe, but I understand that may not be enough for my children who are both already wise beyond their years. I’m certain we are raising future critical thinkers so this is something we’ll need to address with them. I guess it’s a good thing their daddy is also a critical thinker who can speak intelligently about his beliefs. Maybe I’ll catch up to him one of these days…especially if I keep reading your writing dear friend. ;)

    • Oh Rosann, posts like this shouldn’t make you fearful or feeling inadequate. The very fact that you are aware of the secular challenges and the need to raise kids who know how to think critically about faith shows you’re doing exactly what you need to be doing! What scares me is when I hear about parents who basically put their hands over their ears about these challenges and raise their kids in a bubble. I hope that through my blog more and more parents will understand the challenges and learn to give answers. Your kids are more than lucky to have such a faithful, Godly mom and dad. :)

  6. I’m a case study for what you address here. I was raised in a Christian home, served in various leadership capacities at the church I grew up going to – even went away to Bible College – Biola to be specific (Bible Institute of Los Angeles)…and I still came out agnostic. I went down the road of your commenter. Why? It had nothing to do with my parents, pastors, professors or friends. It had everything to do with ME. Jesus was assumed in the suburban corner of my world The question bothered me – existentially and intellectually – was He the Truth I had been led to believe? I never pushed Him on it. The law upon which all relationships are predicated on is the law of inquisitiveness. I didn’t get to know my wife through information osmosis….I got to know her through questions…questions that were driven by a desire to know her as she was. There was no fear in that. If God is real and is Personal and Loves us (as the Bible testifies)…then the same Law applies to our relationship with Him. So when I think about whats happening with this new atheism thing – I think some of these kids a) may not want to know Him (suppressing Him ala Romans 1) or b) they’re getting to know Him as I did – through wrestling. (only God knows) They’re pushing because they want to be pushed back. Freshly engaging with the competing Truth claims of the world gives them (as it did me) impetus for argument. I had my Psalm 88 period and it took a good six years or so for me to get through it. Although I now find all the arguments your commenter raised rather pedestrian, there was a time when they had real force. (Even in faith, there are the terrible twos!) One thing I am forever grateful for is realizing how patient and secure my Dad was (and is) in allowing me to search Him out. The best thing we can be to kids living in this tension is the same… (Being that God works through people, its really encouraging seeing Him in action through you. Super important stuff! Thank you for writing this)

    It is the glory of God to conceal things,
    but the glory of kings is to search things out.
    Proverbs 25:2

    This is random but if you haven’t seen it yet, Alfred Hitchcock’s film “ROPE” is an awesome discussion igniter in light of this new agnostic academic landscape. It peels back the layers of our presuppositions and forces us to evaluate the resolve of our beliefs and their consequences. Good movie night idea :)

  7. You handled this comment very well! I am always curious about those who claim to be atheists commenting on Christian blogs. I think a lot of the time, they are still searching for God by stirring up some debate Him. I am not sure that a true Christian, one who sincerely made a decision and accepted Christ, and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit can genuinely become atheist. If this person truly does not believe in God anymore, I’m not sure they were truly saved to begin with. As a parent, I find this very frightening! It is so very important that our children develop a true relationship with the God of the Bible!

  8. This was a really insightful post, thanks Natasha for posting it and for taking the time to comment on your commenter’s thoughts. It is an excellent example of some of the reasons why we as parents need to pass on faith AND reasons for our faith to our kids. I really think the time to start is now, even if your kids are very young. There are many ways to teach even young kids the foundations of the reasons we feel Christianity is true in a world of competing ideas. I really appreciate your sharing these kinds of ‘counter’ arguments to Christianity because its a wake up call for us all!

  9. I was NOT based well in Christianity back in the 50′s and 60′s growing up. Had I not died and been able to actually MEET Jesus when I was just 4yo, I doubt I would be Christian today!!! I was raised that God wanted to save me from my sin and did when Christ died, but was mad at me because I sinned and would not allow me into heaven because I was a sinner unless I followed “their rules of conduct”…ummm, can we say “tilt”? I spent many adult years trying to reconcile the Bible I read(NKJV) with what I had been taught! All the while going “my own way” of drinking, drugs and stupidity because after all, if I had sinned so much before I was 4yo I couldn’t be acceptable to God, why should I even try to be clean, sober and righteous? So until I was almost 45yo, I did what felt good and prayed that God would find it in His heart to forgive my stupidity somehow! Truth be told, I lost faith in the “church”(of many hypocritical people), NOT God. It wasn’t until I found a church that taught God’s true love for mankind, that I finally began to realize that I had been wrong about “the church”. I had always thought of the church as a “museum for saints” not a “hospital for broken people” as it should be!!!

  10. Great post!

    I did want to suggest one correction, however… in regards to the statement that miracles by definition cannot be explained by natural laws.

    I don’t doubt that God could do a miracle that defies natural laws… and I suspect that the resurrection MUST have had to defy some natural law. But many miracles don’t seem to defy natural laws at all… and yet they are still miraculous.

    One of my favorite examples is Elijah’s battle with the prophets of Baal. The ball of fire that came down from the sky and consumed his alter could very likely have been a meteor. A meteor falling to earth is not at all hard to explain by natural laws…. but the fact that a space rock traveling for thousands upon thousands of years should hit the earth on that exact spot, at that exact time, sending a clear message to all the people watching…. makes it a clear miracle, though it is also completely explicable scientifically.

    I believe that God loves to use the laws of nature he created to do extraordinary things. I don’t think he needs to break those laws very often to make his point.

    So a miracle is not necessarily defined by it’s violation of physical laws… but can be a physically explicable, improbable event that is in obvious coordination with a message that God wants to emphasize.

    God is not only there when the laws of nature are violated. He is just as present and active when they are intact.

  11. My parents came from Christian homes and they raised us in a Christian home. We were very involved in our church. A couple years ago my father decided to defend Christianity by open-mindedly reading both sides of the argument. He had read tons of Christian books already. He read atheist books and came to the conclusion there is no God. Ultimately my mom agreed.

    This was absolutely devastating for me. It lead me to question and find support why I believe in God. I was being a lazy Christian and this was a serious wake-up call that the battle is real. I revived my own faith and actively seek to teach my kids the importance of believing in God.

    I appreciate your blog which I stumbled upon. It is well written and loaded with information. While I can never really win any arguments with my well-read analytical skeptic logical father perhaps I can make him question his questions.

    Please pray for wisdom all around.

  12. Natasha, it must give you some level of satisfaction that something you wrote quite a while ago is still touching and helping people today. I could say that about your entire blog. Keep on keeping on. God bless.

Trackbacks

  1. […] through Finding the Fingerprints of God to share a very insightful post by Natasha Crain (Christian Mom Thoughts).  The post is helpful in identifying some of the reasons that Christian kids leave their faith.  […]

Speak Your Mind

*