Is Christianity Dying? – Russell D Moore asks rhetorically in an article sent to me by a friend who serves in the ministry, wanting my commentary or insight as Dr. Moore explores the results of the latest Pew Religious Landscape study and what those results mean for the Christian church.
Dr. Moore and others would have you believe that a 6.8% increase in people who don’t identify with any religious group and a combined decrease of people claiming affiliation with Christianity, between mainline and evangelical Protestants plus their Catholic counterparts, of 7.4% is largely due to atheism being in vogue enough for the people that have long sat in the pews without actually maintaining religious belief has given them license to speak up about their lack of faith…as if answering an anonymous poll is risque.
He’s not wrong though, fully – people are currently less afraid of outing themselves as non-believers. That doesn’t account for the whole 6.8% upward trend we are seeing though, and his article fails to apologize for the fact that his own Southern Baptist Convention has contributed to the environment of fear that so many have felt as they come to terms with their beliefs or lack thereof. Some people that have been sitting in pews sans faith are now admitting it, surely that’s true. I know some of them. Many more are leaving against their own will – because they’ve been overcome with doubt and simply, tragically (at first), find themselves on the other side of faith.
People are becoming non-believers because they are running out of reasons to believe and growing tired of all that belief has meant for them throughout their lives. Good people often encounter a crisis of conscious when they consider all that their beliefs entail – and they either retreat into fundamentalism, find a way to adjust their beliefs to make them more suitable for their actual convictions, or it drives them into a period of discovery and questioning.
All this before I even mention the fact that we live in the information age, wherein we’ve been provided with fingertip access to libraries of knowledge and resources to help us traverse the age old questions of God and religion – thereby narrowing the gaps that god has conveniently called home.
Dr. Moore is afraid of the fact that his faith is changing, that it’s losing the popularity and strength in numbers it’s had for so long in this country- so naturally he’s using fallacious arguments to assert that those who are leaving never belonged in the first place. That’s no surprise, that happens every time one of us stands up and walks out – but those of us who have left know whether or not we believed – we know why we don’t any longer, and we know why it’s easier for Dr. Moore to assume that we never were in it to begin with than to sit across the table from us and simply ask us about our reasons.
These are the inconvenient answers – the truthful reasons why Christianity shrinks at an alarming rate, and while Dr. Moore may believe that this will simply leave more room for the “True Believers” who remain he can never understand that it doesn’t take much faith to believe in something you’ve never bothered to explore and challenge. More and more believers will find themselves curious and seek out proper answers that their churches and pastors cannot provide – and the next time anyone asks , “Is Christianity Dying?” the answer will be, “Yes, it’s choking on information and the bravery of those who seek it out.”