July 27, 2013

A Window of Opportunity for Atheists

English: 1. Believers 2. Religion 3. Atheists ...
English: 1. Believers 2. Religion 3. Atheists 4. Science (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I see an article like this one, Why millennials are leaving the church, on CNN's Belief Blog, I find myself thinking that we atheists need to make ourselves more visible. This article, like so many others, attempts to communicate to Christian evangelical leaders why youth are leaving their churches. And like so many others, the author suggests that many evangelical leaders are not listening.

What she's asking for, as a Christian, are some significant changes to the priorities of her clergy (e.g., an end to the culture wars, the obsession with sex, the demonization of LGBT individuals). She suggests that youth are leaving, in part, because "young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

As an atheist reading these words, I cannot help thinking that the time is right to leave religion behind and embrace reality. Sure, one could struggle to communicate with clergy who do not seem terribly interested in listening. But wouldn't it be far more rewarding to explore the possibility of living one's life without religion? If growing numbers of young people are growing dissatisfied with the religious traditions into which they were raised, we atheists should be there to remind them that there is an alternative that does not depend on religion at all.

The author of this article may not be ready to take a look at life without religion. She seems to be craving what amounts to an alternative form of religion when she writes:
We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.
What we need to help people like her realize is that such lives do not depend on "holiness" at all. Countless atheists lead such lives. Perhaps the alternative to one failed religion is not to be found in another religion.

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