Commentary

Atheism on the Rise? Growth of Disbelief Signals Danger for America

Alex McFarland
By Alex McFarland | April 17, 2015 | 1:37 PM EDT

An attendee grabs a brochure at the Sunday Assembly, a godless congregation founded by British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Los Angeles. A new mega-church movement is generating buzz from London to Los Angeles, but this time it's a belief in non-belief that's drawing crowds on Sunday mornings. Sunday Assembly began in London in January and soared in popularity among atheists looking for a place to air their views with other like-minded people, and now the concept has taken hold across the pond. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

A new study by the Barna Group has found that atheism and agnosticism are being embraced by a growing percentage of young people. According to the study, “2015 State of Atheism in America” 20 years ago, 18 percent of skeptics were under the age of 30; today, the percentage is nearly double that, at 34 percent.

The numbers are disturbing but not surprising.

In the past several decades, we’ve seen the rise of militant secularism in America. This belief system says that if you are a Christian who believes in the authority of Scripture and in absolute morals, you are intolerant, and your beliefs are not acceptable in society. We’ve seen this secularism take hold in our schools, our entertainment, our culture, our politics and even our churches. And one of the results has been a steep increase in the number of young people who reject God.

Indeed, a separate Barna study found younger generations are increasingly less likely to believe that Jesus was God. Among millennials, only 48 percent believe in the divinity of Jesus, while 35 percent believe he was simply a religious or spiritual leader and 17 percent are unsure.

Tragically, many churches have neglected their call to uphold biblical truth in the face of secularist aggression, instead diluting their messages in response to cultural pressures.

It’s no wonder that the Barna study shows that more than two-thirds of skeptics have actually attended church, and many for a significant period of time. When there are self-proclaimed ministers of the Gospel who, by their own admission, do not believe in God, and others who pursue the praise of society more than obedience to God, how can the church equip individuals to stand strong in their faith?

Although some claim religion is a "private" matter, the rise among young people of skepticism—which the Barna Group defines as including both atheism and agnosticism—will have consequences for America as a nation.

From a societal standpoint, any time we reject a belief in God and, thereby, a belief in absolute morals based on the Word of God, we see the disintegration of a healthy society. From the breakdown of the family and the killing of the unborn to the rejection of the rule of law and of moral boundaries, the consequences are far reaching.

But there is hope. America still has a choice between going down the path of moral chaos or returning to the Judeo-Christian principles that made our nation great. But the change won’t come from political leaders or from the culture; it must begin with the church.

Alex McFarland is a Christian apologist and evangelist and host of the annual Truth for a New Generation apologetics conference. He has written 17 books, and also serves as Director of the Center for Christian Worldview and Apologetics at North Greenville University, located in South Carolina. www.alexmcfarland.com www.truthforanewgeneration.com