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Why Are People Leaving Christianity?  [message #78505] Tue, 28 March 2023 22:22 Go to next message
Bensiamin is currently offline  Bensiamin

Likes it here
Location: USA
Registered: July 2019
Messages: 372

Last December a gay Christian writer named Brandon Flanery, published an article on the Baptist Global News site about why people are leaving Christianity. This wasn't just some opinion piece. Rather, it was based on good research and a well thought out and constructed survey. He reached out through varying social media platforms and received 1,200 responses.

We can fairly assume that the majority of respondents was under 40... maybe under 30.

Be that as it may, the survey asked several questions of people who had left Christianity behind, including:
  • What initiated the change (the first instance where things began to shift)?
  • What was the final reason you made the change (the straw that broke the camel's back)?
  • What does your current existential framework offer you that your previous one did not?

The results of his research are genuinely fascinating and should provide a wake-up call to the Christian church, because this is not limited to conservative Christianity.
Here are the top reasons people gave for abandoning Christianity:

Reason 1
Flanery's research revealed that the number one reason people walk away from Christianity is the church's behavior and attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community. One in four respondents listed this as their final reason for abandoning Christianity.

Reason 2
The second-most common reason that people gave for walking away from Christianity was "The behavior of believers."

Reason 3
The third most common response in Flanery's research was the uncomfortable relationship that seems to exist between church and politics.

Reason 4
The fourth most common response in the research were issues with church leadership.

The Rest of the Reasons
Rounding out the top ten most common reasons people gave for leaving Christianity were: things not making sense on an intellectual level, the church's handling of mental health issues, a desire for independence, the treatment of women in the church, problems with the Bible, and the church's disinterest in civil rights and social justice.


It should be striking (and encouraging!) to readers of this Forum how high anti-LGBTQ behavior and intolerance rated in these responses!

There have been many recent surveys on people departing Christianity, most noting the growth in Nones. However, this is the first I've seen that did a very deep dive on the drivers and motivators, and they are telling.

The other dimension that's telling is the breadth of denominations represented. This is not mainly disaffected Evangelicals as most would expect. Consider this data:


As I said above, reading Brandon's entire article is well worth it, and its written in a very accessible style. He also has a book coming out and does a lot of writing around faith and sexuality. If you want to check him out, go to BrandonFlanery.com.

In this article he also explores a few more important dimensions about making a decision to leave one's faith and what the consequences and challenges are. However, to get into those would make for too long a post for this Forum.

You can link to the article here.

[Updated on: Thu, 30 March 2023 14:45]

Re: Why Are People Leaving Christianity?  [message #78507 is a reply to message #78505] Wed, 29 March 2023 06:18 Go to previous messageGo to next message
William King is currently offline  William King

Toe is in the water

Registered: October 2016
Messages: 99

It struck me that before asking why people leave Christianity one ought to ask how they join in the first place. I don't think it is usually a free choice, but rather guided by parental decision. Children find themselves embroiled in Christianity through their parents. When they are free to think and act for themselves they may quite simply find it irrelevant mumbo jumbo. Supporting this parental influence is the society you are brought up in, particularly in some parts of the world where attending church is the norm and schools give a Christian education. So I think you should ask how people join and I think you will find a very small percentage who make an independent decision to join.
Re: Why Are People Leaving Christianity?  [message #78509 is a reply to message #78507] Wed, 29 March 2023 15:53 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Bensiamin is currently offline  Bensiamin

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Location: USA
Registered: July 2019
Messages: 372

You make a very good point about why people "join" in the first place. It should be said that the majority don't "join" in the sense that they made any type of volitioinal and informed decision to become part of a specific religious group. The same applies to the majority of those in other religions as well. People are born and raised in families, and those families have their own belief constructs that are passed down to the children. The families are also parts of local and larger tribes, and tribalism plays a huge role in this as well.


If one is born into a Catholic family in rural Ireland, you can expect that person to reach late teens or adulthood as a Roman Catholic with a certain belief system. If one is both into an Eastern Orthodox family in Greece, you can expect that person to reach late teens or adulthood as a Greek Orthodox with a certain belief system. If one is born into an Evangelical Christian family in many parts of the US, you can expect that person to reach late teens or adulthood as a born-again Evangelical Christian.

To your point, the majority (but certainly not all) people are not in a place where they can sort this out for themselves until they mature. That's because doing so isn't just an intellectual exercis about theology or doctrine. It is, rather, that plus understanding how those things are connectecd to tribalism and their own family dynamics, and being able to separate themselves from them. It is usually part of understanding one's own identity and reaching a point where one chooses to be in control of and form their own identity rather than accept that bestowed on them by their family, tribe and faith. It's a dynamic I try to explore in the Kaiser stories.

So, while the ansers to that question would be valuable, I think it would have been very hard for Brendan to have included it in his survey, and in fact, the point of his survey was on why they left, not why they believed whatever they did before they left.

Something about what you're asking can be interpolated by the graph showing where people ended up after they left, what their current (or final) existential framework is:


You'll note that about 50% are self-avowed Atheists or Agnostics, and when you add in the Nones and Other you approach 60%. That illustrates both a rather severe break, and usually a well thought out one as well, because it is not as simple as snapping one's fingers to go from believe to atheist or agnostic.

[Updated on: Wed, 29 March 2023 15:58]

Re: Why Are People Leaving Christianity?  [message #78510 is a reply to message #78509] Wed, 29 March 2023 17:19 Go to previous messageGo to next message

Has no life at all
Location: UK, in Devon
Registered: February 2003
Messages: 13759

I found it to be a journey, complicated by the fact that I like hymn tunes. The Devil has all the best songs in the same way that Strangers have the best candy.

At 13 I moved away from societally created belief. My schools had daily assemblies with hymns and prayers. It's a UK thing. We had "Scripture" lessons, not always about dull things. I learned where the now unused expression "To drive like a Jehu" came from. I was deeply concerned about a deity that wanted Abraham to kill his son, whether that deity relented (or Abe backed out) or not. The parable of The Prodigal Son told me to waste the lot because there's always be more, and I'd be more popular than a notional brother who saved stuff.

Oh, I'd far rather be in the dark wth the foolish virgins than in the light with the wise ones.

I was amused when there was a sermon that five loaves and two fishes allegeldy mutiplied. I reckon the audience got ther packed lunches out.

During the period 13 thru 18 I wanted to believe, though. I just could not.

In early adulthood religion of any sort became irrelevant. I never thought about it at all.

1998 for a while I found services in Winchester Cathedral, and they seemed to apply directly to me, I became confused. Then I realised that they were very like stage performances by charlatan mediums, and that the Cold Reading would always apply to me and all the others im the audience. Clever and tricksy wording, doubtless trained in at god-bothering school. It almost got me, just not.

Atheism was not a positive decision. I was not suddenly one who does not believe in a deity. I came to realise that "God" could not be both on my side and an opponent's side in a war. I realised that Remembrance Day, again a UK thing, ought to be where the priest shoudl rail at their deity for being on every side in every war, thus revelling in death and maiming.

I see no reason for a deity, and have no reason nor desire to explain naturalphenomena and human behaviour by blaming a dety. Yet I am sure that There are no atheists in foxholes means I will scream and shout to be saved from catastrophe, even knowing that help is not available. I see psalm 121 as a similar scream: 
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

The second clause is interrogative, despite the lack of question mark. "Where the fuck is my help coming from?????" The remainder is self justifying bollocks.

My journey has been to be without a deity. Atheist. It is not a belief, but is a lack of one

[Updated on: Wed, 29 March 2023 19:03]

Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: Why Are People Leaving Christianity?  [message #78513 is a reply to message #78510] Sun, 02 April 2023 17:55 Go to previous message
ray2x is currently offline  ray2x

Really getting into it
Location: USA
Registered: April 2009
Messages: 429

The day I left organized religion was when a young Fillipino Catholic pastor began his sermon announcing the virtues of George W. Bush. The line was crossed and I walked out before his sermon ended. Apparently a few other parishoners did as well. The majority stayed probably enjoying what they heard. Years later, someone asked me why I left the church. I told that person I only left a building but kept my faith. What was happening in the church was no longer a faith led institution but turned into something other than a good place to be in.
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