Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum in Cincinnati (a controversial project) has published a survey that he commissioned with America's Research Group, a marketing research firm based in South Carolina. The interviewers in this study talked only to Americans in their 20s who grew up in Evangelical or conservative Protestant families, going to church regularly. They found that 60 percent no longer go to church. When they asked why, they found no single reason:
- 12% because church was boring
- 12% because of legalism
- 11% because of the hypocrisy of church leaders
- 10% because the church was too political
- 9% because of self-righteous people
- 7% because of distance from their home
- 6% because the church is not relevant to their personal growth
- 6% because they do not believe God would condemn people to hell
- 5% because the Bible is not relevant or not practical
- 5% because they could not find their denomination in their area
It seems to me that "legalism" and "hypocrisy" and "self-righteous" are really all the same thing, which means a third of these young adults are turned off by the overly judgmental and interfering atmosphere that some church people generate. The 10 percent who said "the church was too political" may also be a part of the same cluster. I could not tell from the report if this is referring to "political" in the sense of interpersonal games, etc., or if it is a reaction against the way right-wing politics has such a large role in some Evangelical congregations.
The six percent who left because they could not accept the notion that God works a miracle to keep people alive forever in hell so they can be tortured are in good company. Fudge and other Christian theologians have pointed out that this notion, which is still widely accepted, is really not in the Bible, but comes from Greek myths about an immortal soul which early contaminated Christian faith. It is too bad when unBiblical doctrine drives away honest, clear-thinking young people from our own families.
Those who have dropped out of church were also asked about their attitudes toward the Bible. Do they "believe that all accounts and stories in the Bible are true and accurate?" About 38 percent said yes, 44 percent said no and 18 percent had not made up their minds. The 44 percent were asked a follow-up question: "What made you begin to doubt the Bible?"
- 24% because it was written by human beings
- 18% because it was not correctly translated
- 15% because the Bible contradicts itself
- 14% because science shows the world is old (re: Creation and Genesis 1)
- 11% because the Bible has errors
- 7% because there so much suffering in the world
- 4% because Christians don't live by the Bible
- 4% because evolution proves that the Bible is wrong
Another question asked outright, "Does the Bible contain errors?" Some 40 percent said yes, 30 percent said they did not know and 30 percent said no. Another follow-up question asked the 40 percent to list errors, and these were the responses:
- 22% there are contradictions
- 18% the writers made mistakes
- 10% the Bible is wrong about the young age of the earth
- 6% there is too much suffering and death in the Bible
- 5% Genesis has been disproved by science
- 2% miracles do not occur
- 2% there never was a global flood
It seems to me that the 10 percent who mention the young age of the earth, the five percent who think Genesis has been disproved by science and the two percent who say there never was a global flood are all talking about the same basic issue. That totals 17 percent who believe the Bible account of the origins of the earth is in error. Note that the two top items, totaling 40 percent, are not very specific; just a kind of general attitude toward the Bible without real evidence.
Source: Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It by Ken Ham, Britt Beemer and Todd Hillard (2009, Master Books, Green Forest, Arkansas).