Thursday, October 4, 2007

There's Hope: Younger Set Highly Skeptical of Christianity

For all those out there bleating about how the "New Atheists" (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et al) are supposedly setting back the cause of a more freethinking nation, stick this study in your frames. Apparently skepticism, and a generally negative perception of Christianity, are at all time highs:

"Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative. Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) - representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. The most common favorable perceptions were that Christianity teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%), has good values and principles (76%), is friendly (71%), and is a faith they respect (55%)."

OK, so that's the non-Christians, of course their attitudes are negative, right? But what about the Christians themselves? No good news for the pious there either:

"Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality. "

In other words, they see it for what it is, and more clearly than any generation before them. The key issue that does it for them? Homosexuality:

"Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is "anti-homosexual." Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a "bigger sin" than anything else. "

As I've noted here previously, nothing brings out the stupid like homosexuality and birth control, and that isn't going unnoticed by the generation who has been brought up to see no harm in either. Consequently, our society is shedding it's Christian skin, slowly but surely:

"One reason that Christianity’s image is changing is due to the shifting faith allegiances of Americans. Simply put, each new generation has a larger share of people who are not Christians (that is, atheists, agnostics, people associated with another faith, or those who have essentially no faith orientation). The new book refers to this group as "outsiders" because they are describing what Christianity looks like from an outsider’s perspective. Among adults over the age of 40, only about one-quarter qualify as outsiders, while among the 16 to 29 segment, two-fifths are outsiders. This represents a significant migration away from the dominant role that Christianity has had in America.

As pointed out in the Barna Update related to atheists and agnostics, this is not a passing fad wherein young people will become "more Christian" as they grow up. While Christianity remains the typical experience and most common faith in America, a fundamental recalibration is occurring within the spiritual allegiance of America’s upcoming generations."

Read the whole article, it is a gem. This should come as no surprise to anyone following the presidential election. While the Religious Right remains a powerful political force to which politicians still feel they must pander, the leading candidates themselves are far from the loony religiosity of many of the marginal candidates like the evolution-denying triumvirate of Huckabee, Tancredo, and Brownback. With the addition of Alan Keyes in the race, the association of religiosity with craziness might just stick.

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