However, as powerful as it is, people in the U.S. are leaving the religion in droves. Pew Research Center says the percentage of Americans who are Christian is down 12% from the last decade.
Interestingly, Pew Research Center reports:
"Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or 'nothing in particular,' now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009."
But, why are they leaving? Well, Ask Reddit wanted to know people's first hand accounts that gives us some insight into why they left the church.
Redditor hollgranty08 asked:
"Ex-Christians, what was the behavior/incident that finally pushed you to leave the church?"
Here are some real examples of some reasons people left Christianity.
Going against Jesus' teachings.
"One time a homeless man walked into our church hoping to be invited in for service, meet people and grab some food. Unfortunately for him, the deacons and pastor basically turned him away they basically said that there was no way they could help them and if he comes back then they're going to call the cops. I found this really repulsive as the bible is basically centered around helping others."
"It's interesting how so many Christians do the opposite of what Jesus would do. Did they skip over all the stories where Jesus took the time to help or talk to someone who was considered an inconvenience in society? Many of today's Christians praise the name of Jesus while acting just like the people he constantly criticized."
"Too many Christians are taught that being baptized guarantees a spot in heaven, and so there's no real point in doing good."
"I've long said that if Jesus appeared now, the Christians would just see a brown Jewish hippie promoting socialism and kill him again."
"This is also why I have such admiration for Jimmy Carter. He has built his life around helping others. He's one of the few Christians out there that lives Jesus's teachings. He didn't even let brain cancer stop him building housing for the homeless."
Preaching selfishness but surrounded by luxury.
"Seeing how rich the pastors home was compared to the church goers. Everyone seemed blind to the hypocrisy of preaching selflessness and begging for donations week after week when this guys garage had 5 doors."
"They also judged people on the pettiest things having no awareness how the world really is for different people specially younger people."
"I did attend a more hippie church I loved for awhile but those people are rare."
"Too many things don't add up and I've come to understand I don't believe God exist in the way organized religion explains God. I believed it's much more complicated and cosmic to our understanding."
"Yea I have some issues with that too. I had a fellowship leader teaching the lesson of rich people going to heaven is harder than putting camel thru eye of the needle. And we shouldn't like materialistic things to be spiritual. Then after the fellowship, he goes home in his Porsche 911 (expensive car). You will find the most people in church who have cognitive dissonance with what they teach and how they act."
"About the same here. Hypocrites are rampant, and the conservative 'I got mine' mentality really killed it."
"You take a bunch of people wanting to believe, ask them for money, then the pastors brag about their trips and new cars. It is ridiculous, not to mention a lot of them I knew immediately forget or ignore the Bible's messages and go join energy companies."
"I grew up in a split household. Half Catholic and half Jewish. It wasn't long after my first communion - which looking back on kind of creeps me out as I remember someone saying that the little girls were all like little brides - that I really decided which way to sway. My Jewish family always encouraged me to speak up and ask questions.
"After communion one Sunday, I went to the priest and began asking questions. I figured as a mouthpiece for our religion, he could answer some of the questions for me. As my questions became harder to answer, he finally told me that children should be seen and not heard. When I related the story back to Jewish family, they all got flustered, 'How will you learn then?!' It hit me that the Catholics didn't want people to learn or reason or question. They wanted blind faith."
"This is absolutely true. I asked a priest after mass about a deep topic and he brushed me off. My Dad then scolded me for asking a question. I knew at that moment it was about a hidden answer and I knew the truth. Checked out at that moment."
"Because there is no answer, because the Bible is full of contradictions. They supposedly learn all the scholarly history etc in seminary. I don't think they can really believe what they are preaching. I've read a lot of priests and pastors get stuck going through the motions out of some sunk cost fallacy. They risk losing their entire social community with a nonsense qualification."
"I firmly believe that religion was created to control the masses and the more educated the masses are, the less control you have."
Christianity blossomed as a religion when its potential to control the peasantry was realized.
"Blessed are the meek; blessed are the poor in spirit; it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven"
[Bear your burden and don't raise too much of a stink of why your lord lives in luxury and you lavish - you will have your eternal reward in the end ;) ]
"Absolutely agree, this is largely about education. Educated people ask questions. Organized religion doesn't have answers that stand up to any level of scrutiny. Religion is a machine designed to remove money from the gullible."
God doesn't care where you pray.
"Hearing the pastor preach about how the church needs to raise $1mil so we can build a Prayer Center on campus, basically a big building where people can go to pray. I'm thinking 'God doesn't care where you pray, go out in the field and pray!' And then he said the churchgoers need to pay for this as a symbol of our faith."
"Lol, I'm Jewish, and I knew that was BS the moment I read it."
"My family usually does our Shabbat services at home. We go to the synagogue for significant holidays, but that's pretty much it."
"If God is watching you, you don't need a designated place to pray."
"'Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.' Luke 5:15-16"
"This is exactly what happened to me and my wife. The Pastor and his young adult kids would pull up to church in their Mercedes. Meanwhile, he started a campaign for a huge new church with all the new modern amenities. This was to be built literally right next to the current humongous and modern church."
"The final straw was him insisting on us giving money while I was unemployed and we had a new born child. We only had running water and electricity in our house at the time, things were rough. MF'er didn't offer assistance or help, only that we live by "faith" and offering money to the church every weekend."
"Never again will I fall into that trap."
God loves everyone.
"The utter hypocrisy of being told to love everyone and then listening to the list of people NOT in the category 'everyone.' (Gay people, people of other faiths, people of other races etc)."
"I believe that any God that is as petty, judgmental and unforgiving as we can be is not a God worth worship. Every little church has its own interpretation of the gospel but if you don't prescribe to that specific one then you are not going to heaven."
"I believe in being a good person, doing your best to live a life that does not harm others. In short, I believe in walking the walk, not talking the talk."
"If that lands me in a fiery hole, I'm ok with that, I will be in the company of some awesome people who missed out on that list too."
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"I completely agree. My dad's a Christian, my mum was not. My dad is a very difficult person to be around, highly judgmental of those groups you mentioned (even when he says he's not), has a temper problem, speaks to people rudely, amongst many other things."
"My mum wasn't. She didn't go to church or believe in it, but she was the most selfless, compassionate, kind and non-judgmental woman you could wish to meet. I struggle to believe God could condemn such a beautiful person to hell and my dad to heaven. She developed early onset Alzheimer's in her 50s and died a few years ago. My dad started taking her to church when she had Alzheimer's which she NEVER did and also donated £5,000 of her money in her will to the church. It stills gets me he did that to this day. I'm not religious, but I'm sure he'd be real pleased if he got Alzheimer's and I started taking him to a mosque every week and gave some of his inheritance to said mosque when he dies. Hypocrite."
"I read a phrase once which [stuck] with me:"
"If 'God' is just, it will not care if you followed his advice, how you lived, etc. He will only care if you were a good Samaritan, and if you did good on others just out of the love on your heart."
"If he is unjust... why would you want to follow an unjust God?"
"'Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.'"
"'Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?'"
"'Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?'"
"Not sure who said it first; seems to be Epicurus but Britannica says David Hume which might be more reliable. Either way it's interesting."
They must believe in Jesus.
"When I heard a pastor say with glee that Muslims are going to hell because they don't believe in Jesus."
"How can that concept ever be something to be happy about. Especially when the devout Muslims I know still think that Christians go to heaven..... It doesn't seem very.... Christian.... for want of a better word."
"The funniest part about this is that Muslims DO believe in Jesus. At least, as a prophet."
"Yeah, exactly. Why would anyone be gleeful about the idea that people are going to hell on a relatively minor difference - which is primarily driven by where they are born."
"Interestingly, when I stopped believing in god, I had to let go of the idea of someone punishing all the people I disliked and/or disagreed with in the afterlife."
"Yeah, this is true. To be honest, I was never that sold on the heaven and hell thing, in the first place. What actually put me off the church was how much people seemed to WANT there to be a hell. I just couldn't square it with my values."
"I mostly saw god as a checker of my behavior, but still saw morality as a personal responsibility to understand."
"I stopped believing in a tangible god after I stopped going to church just due to a lack of evidence, and the fact that it wasn't being reinforced every Sunday. I still like the idea that I have a responsibility towards something intangible that can't be fooled. I accept it is probably useful, rather than true."
"The problem that I have with pure atheism/antitheism, is that it's very easy to fool/bargain with yourself, and convince yourself you are being your best self. It's harder when it feels like someone knows - for me, at least."
The long game.
"For my confirmation, I was given a beautiful white leather bound bible. I read it. Twice. Every word. It left me with more questions than answers, so I talked to my pastor (who was a pretty cool dude), who smiled at me and said 'I knew you would be the one who'd figure it out', gave me a hug and told me that he enjoyed having me in his class. Basically, he admitted that it's all a bunch of bs. Been an atheist ever since."
"Holy sh*t. He really played the long game."
"He tried, he really did, but he was also always open to questions and discussions. In the 2 years of bible study (required before confirmation), he never 'preached', he was never condescending, he admitted to not having all the answers. Like I said, he was a really cool dude. To him, it seemed to me, his role as a pastor was more about community and being a decent person than belief. I wish more people of the church would be more like him."
"Penn Jillette said that there's no faster way to becoming an atheist than reading the bible."
"That was a major factor for me too."
"He was right. I was only 14 then, so I read it twice to make sure. Didn't change my mind."
"Later in life, I've realized that a lot of the Biblical stories make sense to us because they are familiar."
"We all know that Jesus died on the cross to save us all. But it really only makes sense if you know that as a truth from very young age."
"If you stop to think that why would an almighty god need a human sacrifice to forgive the people he himself created to be flawed? There are really only two options: either he just wants a human sacrifice or there has to be an even higher power in the universe who dictates that you need such a sacrifice for forgiveness."
"Otherwise God could forgive us like we forgive each other, just out of humanity and understanding. We don't need blood rituals for that."
"Yet because we were taught from very early age that Jesus died for our sins, it makes sense."
"Yeah I'm a Hindu who didn't grow up with biblical ideas and none of it makes sense to me. Why did someone have to die for everyone's sins? Why is everyone born sinful? Why are people who don't believe in Jesus going to hell even if they do good deeds? These ideas are just taken for granted in western society and it's all so weird to me."
"I did try to read about this stuff but everything has confusing words like ecumenical and ecclesiastical and Deuteronomy and whatever the hell else and I gave up. I also did try talking to a priest who was seated next to me on a 19 hr. flight about wtf is all this, and he tried explaining things, but it just got more confusing."
"Religion was never pushed on me but my family is religious. Once I stopped fully believing and they'd ask why or whatever, I'd just say if god is really so benevolent and great he would understand my reluctance to believe in him."
"Thankfully I have a good family and they considered this a pretty good response and don't bug me about it."
Science and scripture.
"Sitting through an Episcopal sermon where the priest said that mental illness was being possessed by demons. At the handshake door (on the way out), I said, 'You have really f*cked this one up.' He responded with, 'A good Christian holds science in one hand and the scripture in the other.'"
"I knew it was just one priest but I was already on the fence about religion so I bolted."
"Good call honestly. I grew up in a couple churches that also believed this (which is why I didn't get proper treatment until I was in my 20's. Cause praying MDD and an anxiety disorder away didn't work. That and literally one of the young people in the last church I went to had schizophrenia. When I heard how the pastor was preaching about demon possession and how the congregation behaved in reference to hearing things (that weren't attributed to God- that that was demons), I was appalled."
"I agree a good Christian holds science in one hand and the scripture in the other but sounds like he doesn't have science even in the same building."
The devil is in you.
"It didn't happen to me but my dad. The priest came near him, watched him, and said, 'You have the devil in you."
"My dad has never gone to a church since then Only when family members got married."
"This reminds me of when my husband told me that when he was a kid and went to church, the priest randomly came up and told him he was the son of Satan because he had ADHD and couldn't sit still. Literally wtf why would anyone say that to a child."
It's interesting to hear that people are seeing that the blind faith and hypocrisy are not what they want to subscribe to any longer. Even though the faith still has a huge influence on our politics and culture, perhaps we will see that begin to shift.
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