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  • What are the most common reasons that cause Christians to lose their faith and turn to atheism, agnosticism or skepticism?
  • Are these reasons only effective against young Christians? What about pastors, priests, elders, evangelists, missionaries, etc.? Are long-time committed Christians also vulnerable to have their faith "shaken" by these reasons?

I think these are important questions to answer, especially with so many atheist activists spreading skepticism and atheism nowadays. Wikipedia has an informative list of atheist activists and educators. There are also the "Four Horsemen of the New Atheism", namely, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. In social media we also find lots of content producers who spread agnosticism, atheism and skeptical ways of thinking. For example, on YouTube I'm familiar with Genetically Modified Skeptic (458K subscribers), CosmicSkeptic (446K subscribers), The Atheist Experience (365K subscribers), Rationality Rules (296K subscribers), AronRa (263K subscribers) and Bart D. Ehrman (83K subscribers). Here is a list with the top 50 atheist YouTube channels.


EDIT: [For legacy reasons.] This question originally had a third dot point which was removed to make it more focused. However, before the question was closed a user managed to post an answer where a big chunk of it addresses this third point. Therefore, I'm keeping it below for legacy reasons only. Future answerers may feel free to completely ignore it if they wish.

  • What measures (if any) are Christian churches taking to counteract these reasons for deconversion? Do any Christian churches or organizations teach people how to have an unshakable faith, even in the face of the most challenging objections?
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  • Ah, right, sorry... mostly agreeing with the votes-to-close (not me; I lack the reputation). It feels like a rather broad, open-ended question. It also feels like one that is very difficult to answer factually. That said, I note that your "skeptics roll call" lines up rather nicely with my Answer 😉. Omitting the third bullet point probably would have helped.
    – Matthew
    Oct 27, 2021 at 17:02
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    Deconversion is a topic that I think is being studied quite a lot now, so I think the general topic and question is on-topic. But, I think asking both for a summary of reasons and contributing factors as well as responses to it makes this too broad. If you cut out the last dot point then I think this would be okay to reopen.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 28, 2021 at 1:29
  • @curiousdannii - edit made. Thanks for the suggestion. Oct 28, 2021 at 9:26
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    Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. - 1 John 2:18-19 Nov 4, 2021 at 11:08

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+50

What's wrong?

What are the most common reasons that cause Christians to lose their faith and turn to atheism, agnosticism or skepticism?

Well... it's hard to arrive at a factual answer. The only thing I found without spending hours doing research was this article, so... this is going to be based significantly on my own observations and "collected knowledge", although this article (thanks, Ken!) has a remarkably similar take. If you want a laundry list, read the aforementioned article. I, personally, believe the most serious problem is:

Compromise

To explain, consider several major problems:

  • Naturalism is a philosophy (read: "religion" by another name) whose central dogma is that God does not exist. You are likely most familiar with this philosophy due to its twin spawns of Evolutionism (the claim that all life originated as a result of random processes, that humans are not materially different from beasts, and so forth) and Uniformitarianism (known primarily for claims that the Earth is billions of years old). These claims are being shouted at "westerners" constantly, with their supporters insisting that they are "indisputable, proven facts". These "facts" stand in direct contradiction to the true and God-breathed history of the bible and undermine the very foundations of Christianity. (Evolutionism, in particular, is directly at odds with the doctrine of Original Sin.)

  • Relativism denies that there is such a thing as "truth", particularly with respect to morality. Under the guise of "tolerance", it vilifies (that is, is intolerant of) those who try to cling to traditional Christian morality. In the absence of "truth", there is little reason to remain Christian, leading to the related issue of Universalism. (I'm reminded of an article about many young people in the UK converting to Islam precisely because that religion remains firm in its convictions.)

  • Secularization of worship is seen in many Protestant and non-denominational churches, particularly "mega churches". Not unlike the previous point, attempts to cater to "the masses" and "engage the emotions" result in a "watered down" Christianity that loses its ability to connect people Spiritually to God.

The common thread in all of these is compromise; namely, rather than standing firm on Christianity's historical convictions, many churches are giving in to cultural pressure to conform, to achieve "consensus" with secular groups, and are thus allowing the foundations of Christianity to be undermined. When "Christianity" looks just like agnosticism, why bother to be Christian? When Christianity gives up its foundations in the name of "tolerance" and "science", it becomes the proverbial house that was built on sand, unable to withstand the attacks of the world and the adversary. "Christians" lacking those firm foundations are readily overcome and fall away.

The problem isn't just with individuals, either; when these attitudes infest a large number of Christians, church bodies suffer as well, for much the same reasons. One of the previously mentioned articles speaks of "lukewarm" Christians thusly:

Lukewarm Christianity teaches Christians that compromising our faith is acceptable. Instead of standing for righteousness, lukewarm Christianity encourages the body of Christ to remain neutral.

When the body of Christ becomes neutral we also become ineffective. In addition, we relinquish power and authority to those who wish to change the standards of righteousness to fit their own agendas.

A lukewarm church aids the agenda of the enemy without even knowing it.

Compromise thus affects both the individual believer, by robbing them of the strength to withstand the assault of the Adversary, and by robbing the greater body of Christians of the ability to stand together to support those believers that falter. Meanwhile, the failure to stand up to the forces arrayed against the Church lends strength to their assaults.

Many westerners may believe that we are free to believe what we want, but in truth, persecution of Christians is thriving. Educational institutions in particular have been shoving Naturalism down children's throats for decades (and are starting to push racism and Marxism), as this article notes:

While music, entertainment, fun and games may ultimately make church an exciting and interesting place to be, it is the foundational intellectual challenges and doubts about the Christian faith and the Bible that are not being answered. And there is nothing more foundational in the Bible than the early chapters of Genesis—the very chapters that will be attacked the most by secular, higher education, particularly in the sciences where evolution is taught to the exclusion of everything else.

...and later:

We are not saying that creation vs. evolution is the only reason our youth leave the church, but our surveys clearly showed it is a major reason.

If Christians are unwilling or unable to fight back, is it any wonder our numbers are dwindling? The Adversary knows where to hurt us; if we fail to hold fast to what is true, and allow ourselves to succumb to the siren calling of anti-theistic world views, how can we stand?

What can be / is being done?

[Note: the quoted part of the question below was subsequently removed to make the question more focused. However, the following still seems useful, so has been retained.]

What measures (if any) are Christian churches taking to counteract these reasons for deconversion? Do any Christian churches or organizations teach people how to have an unshakable faith, even in the face of the most challenging objections?

Unfortunately, a lot of churches are part of the problem. Not all, however; some churches are still willing to teach the Truth plainly, but they are an unfortunately-dwindling minority.

As for organizations... the outlook is a little better. Here, I have an admittedly non-mainstream view, which is that the fundamental issue is Naturalism. Secularization comes mainly from a misguided desire to "be appealing". Relativism is in many senses an outgrowth of Evolutionism and Naturalism, since the denial of Truth rests ultimately on denying God. Once God is allowed in the picture, the case for Relativism is significantly undermined. Similarly, if churches were to hold firmly to doctrine, I believe they would naturally recognize that doing so is the best way to retain membership, and secularization would die a natural death.

To ask the favorite question of a prominent theologian: What does this mean?

In many ways, I believe the problems with Christianity today all stem, ultimately, from rejection of one premise:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

When one realizes how pear-shaped things go when this foundational truth is rejected, it doesn't seem like much of a coincidence that this is the very first verse of the bible.

When a Christian acknowledges God, he or she must reject Relativism. When one allows for (and accepts) God's existence, one can recognize and reject the vaporous Holmesian fallacies on which Naturalism has built Evolutionism and Uniformitarianism, and can recognize how a historic reading of Genesis is a better fit than these man-made delusions (n.b. 2 Thessalonians 2). With such an understanding, one has a firm foundation and is equipped (n.b. Ephesians 6:11) to withstand the anti-theistic and false teachings of the world.

Some organizations that are trying to take this on, and have many, many resources to help Christians stand firmly on the foundations of Genesis 1, include:

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  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator, oops, thanks for the edit 😳. I meant to edit the link text (fixed now) and accidentally changed the link location instead.
    – Matthew
    Oct 27, 2021 at 16:57
  • Does this answer assume that one may lose salvation? Nov 4, 2021 at 11:09
  • @MikeBorden, I honestly don't know 🙂. If it helps, I'm not saying that someone who accepts Uniformitarianism and/or Evolutionism is automatically not Christian. Like a seed planted in rocky soil, faith may still grow, but will be more vulnerable than faith grounded in the true history of Genesis.
    – Matthew
    Nov 4, 2021 at 14:31
  • The word “earth” in Gen 1:1 actually stands for (Strong’s concordance app) the ground, not the whole globe. And “heavens” should be in singular to mean “sky”, Thus, the first sentence is just a heading, summing up what’s to come, which is separation of the water. Nov 6, 2021 at 4:36
  • @Constantthin, I think you missed the point. 1:1 is a summary of / introduction to the whole chapter, the point of which is that God Created the land and all creatures, including humans... in six days (~120-144 hours). Not "natural processes" in billions of years, as claimed by those who would take the power to Create away from God and give it to material things (n.b. Romans 1:25!).
    – Matthew
    Nov 8, 2021 at 17:18
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What are the most common reasons that cause Christians to deconvert to atheism/agnosticism?

There is a lot of talk about this subject of deconversion. A factual answer will be hard to find. Deconversion is a topic that I think is being studied quite a lot now. But, I think asking both for a summary of reasons and contributing factors is not to be clearly found and/or outlined anywhere.

One of the greatest reasons for it, in my humble opinion is lukewarmness in certain Christians which can lead to apostasy and relativism.

Undoubtedly lukewarmness is one of the main root causes for losing the faith. If you stand too long on the fence, the greater the chances one is going to fall off.

We learn what the Bible says about being a lukewarm Christian in Revelation chapter 3. Here John (one of Jesus’ dsiciples) is having a conversation with God about what is to come in the last days.

God tells gives him messages to deliver to seven churches; one of them being the church of Laodiceans; also described as the lukewarm church.

This will give you an even more clear understanding of the lukewarm Christian definition and how God feels about lukewarm Christianity.

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot I will vomit you out of My mouth. - Revelation 3:14

Why is it better to be cold than lukewarm?

A “cold” Christian is typically well aware of their choice to live for themselves or join another belief system.

A lukewarm Christian is usually one that has either:

  • fallen away so slowly they don’t recognize their own complacency.

or

  • someone who is still trying to figure out how to get the best of both worlds. In both cases, we introduce a level of deception and confusion that is damaging.

Lukewarm Christianity causes the church to stop doing the will of the Lord and begin living for themselves. What’s worse is that it teaches we can do so without consequence; teaching that perverts that grace of God and the very heart of the gospel.

As Francis Chan states in the best of lukewarm Christian quotes:

Lukewarm Christians don’t really want to be saved from their sins; they want to be saved from the consequences of their sins. – Francis Chan

Which brings us to the next question. Are lukewarm Christians saved? There are a lot of opinions on whether or not a lukewarm person will receive salvation. - 7 Surefire Signs You’re A Lukewarm Christian

Pope Francis is very enlightening on the subject of lukewarmness.

The lukewarm, Pope Francis said, “lose the capacity to contemplate, the capacity to see the great and beautiful things of God”. For this the Lord seeks to awaken us, to help us convert. But, he continued, the Lord is “present in another way: He is there to invite us: ‘Behold, I knock at the door.’” Here the Pope underlines the importance of being able to “hear when the Lord knocks at our door… because He wants to gives us something good.” - ‘Discern well to avoid becoming lukewarm Christians’

Once again keep in mind what St. John wrote in the Apocalypse:

So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot I will vomit you out of My mouth.- Revelation 3:14

Fervent Christians generally do not loose their faith easily!

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OP: What are the most common reasons that cause Christians to lose their faith and turn to atheism, agnosticism or skepticism?

The reasons fall into two categories.

Skepticism, wherein former believers cannot resolve or ignore the contradictions in the bible. So, where the bible was once used to keep the faith, it becomes a cause to lose faith. See here and here.

Blasphemy, this is the situation familiar in the present day where those who are supposed to be holy are basically evil (pedophiles). This failure of leaders, however, runs in many ways (greed, persecution, unfaithfulness, unrighteousness, additions to the faith) through Christianity over the last 2,000 years. Who wants to be a part of that wreck?

OP: Are these reasons only effective against young Christians? What about pastors, priests, elders, evangelists, missionaries, etc.? Are long-time committed Christians also vulnerable to have their faith "shaken" by these reasons?

The impact of false teachers and disgusting leaders, the, as Paul put it, so-called brothers in Christ, impacts new believers as well as old believers.

For those who do such things, as Christ said, it would be better to have the millstones hung around their necks and cast into the sea, than harm the little ones.

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  • Do you find any of the contradictions listed in those articles persuasive (from a skeptic's point of view, I mean)? Nov 6, 2021 at 17:20
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator not at all. We know different religions are out there and will try to attack what they don't understand. As mentioned in another thread, to me, the most persuasive argument for believing the bible is fulfilled prophecy (Messiah as suffering servant and king of kings fulfilled in Christ Jesus). Questions about who sent who or dimensional issues or mistranslations or verbiage simply pale into oblivion in comparison.
    – SLM
    Nov 7, 2021 at 19:43
  • Skepticism... or, as another article notes, "our surveys clearly showed [that creation vs. evolution] it is a major reason [our youth leave the church]". When you have tremendous societal pressure telling you the basis of your religion is wrong, and no one in your church saying otherwise...
    – Matthew
    Nov 8, 2021 at 17:31
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Although I would agree with the previous answers that philosophies stating axiomatically that God does not exist are constantly undermining the efforts of churches and offering false alternatives to the Christian worldview, I would approach this question from a slightly different angle.

I believe the chief cause for falling away is the erosion of the understanding and active teaching of the main Christian message, the Gospel (which means message / good / important news).

To be clear (and not to do what I’ll describe later!), what I’m referring to can be stated in a number of ways, but let me state it thus:

  • God is the loving ruler of the world
  • He made the world, and he made humans to rule the world, and to be under his rule
  • But humans have rejected God’s rule, and instead want to rule themselves. This has fractured the relationship between us and God.
  • Now God is completely just, and must punish the rebellion. But he is completely loving also, and wants to forgive and heal.
  • So he sent his son Jesus into the world, who always lived under God’s rule. Yet, when he died on the cross, he took on himself the punishment that is due to us all for our rebellion.
  • Furthermore, God raised Jesus from the dead, and made him the ruler of the world.
  • Which leaves us with two ways to live (the title of this Gospel outline, actually): either, we can continue to rule ourselves, facing punishment and death when we die, or we can accept the rule of Jesus - with the forgiveness and life that brings - a richer life now, and eternal life after we die.

Now there are three categories into which a church can fall regarding this message:

  • Gospel taught: This message, or an aspect of it, is explicitly explained and unpacked at every meeting. E.g. in the account of Jesus calming the storm:

“Jesus is the ruler of the waves, of the natural environment. He is the king of creation and can calm not only the storms of nature, but of your life too, if you accept his kingship. Accepting his kingship makes you right with God again, and if you were to die on your way home, you would find there had been much more restored than just the storms of your life. Jesus is the king of the whole universe! He is is the radiance of God’s glory. Submit to him; receive the gift of eternal life!”

[There are (perhaps obvious) reasons why one can legitimately spiritualise the story but I won’t go into these here.]

  • Gospel assumed: The Gospel message is believed, but if you were a young believer, or sitting on the fence - or simply needed reminding! - you would hardly ever hear it in the church’s teaching. In our same story, e.g.:

“Jesus can not only calm the storms of nature, but of your life too. Why not accept him as Lord of your life? Ask him now to come into your life, so that you can have restoration too!”

If a church ceases actively to keep spelling out the Gospel, it becomes an assumed truth, and the church can easily slip into the third category:

  • Gospel lost: The main message of the Bible, the very promises of forgiveness and eternal life, have been lost from the teaching of the church. Our example one more time:

“In this story, Jesus calmed the waves, and the disciples were amazed. How can we, today, invite Jesus to speak calm into our lives, into our stressful situations? Let’s pray to Jesus now, breathing deeply, asking the Christ light to come into us… bringing peace… bring calm… bringing love… bringing light.”

This third category might sound like an overstatement but let me assure you, there are many many churches out there today where you will hear nothing but this kind of airy gumpf. A person sitting under this teaching has no hope whatsoever of hearing the true Gospel - unless of course they were to pick their Bible up and start reading it in chunky sections. But if they didn’t do that, they might well eventually give up on their church, and possibly on Christianity also - without ever really having understood the Gospel, or how to respond to it, in the first place.

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  • In short, many people desert because they never heard the true gospel, only watered-down versions of it, correct? Nov 6, 2021 at 9:08
  • Yes I would say that is correct.. either that or they never supplemented their watered down church messages with chunky Bible reading (as opposed to the “verse of the day” variety).
    – user56152
    Nov 6, 2021 at 11:30

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