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Anne Rice is Not Alone

posted by Scot McKnight

David Kinnamon and the Barna Group has a new survey study ….

Anne Rice is not alone. She shares a spiritual profile with nearly 60 million other adults nationwide. In the Barna study, the matter of faith switching was explored in several ways. First, respondents identified their childhood faith, if any, and then were asked to list their current faith allegiance. A comparison of the two answers showed that nearly one-quarter of adults (23%) had moved from one faith or faith tradition to another. This definition of faith change included those who switched from Catholic to Protestant and vice versa, but did not include those who changed from one Protestant denomination to another within the Protestant tradition. Overall, an additional 12% of adults had shifted affiliations but had not altered their Protestant orientation.

A second survey approach mirrored the findings of major faith change. Respondents to the same study were also asked if they had ever “changed to a different faith or significantly changed their faith views” or if they were “the same faith today as they were as a child.” Once again, about one-quarter of Americans (26%) said they had changed faith. Based on the research profile, these types of individuals were more likely than average to be women, divorced adults, residents of the Western states, atheists or agnostics, unchurched, and political independents.

The most common type of spiritual shift was from those who were Christian, Protestant or Catholic in childhood to those who currently report being atheist, agnostic or some other faith. In total, this group represents about one out of every eight adults (12%), a category that might be described as ex-Christians.

Converts to Christianity (those converting from another faith or from non-belief as a child to the Christian faith as an adult) represent 3% of the population. About twice as many (7%) moved from Protestant to Catholic or from Catholic to Protestant. Another 2% of adults were no longer the same as their childhood faith but did not fit into any of these three categories.

Why People Change
The survey also explored the top-of-mind reasons why people change faiths. The most common reasons for moving away from Christianity included life experiences, such as gaining new knowledge or education; feeling disillusioned with church and religion; feeling the church is hypocritical; having negative experiences in churches; being in disagreement with Christianity about specific issues such as homosexuality, abortion or birth control; feeling the church is too authoritarian; wanting to express their faith outside of church; and searching for a new faith or wanting to experience other religions.

Among those who were shifting toward Christianity, the most common motivations were going through difficult life events (such as divorce, a health crisis or death of a loved one); getting older and seeing life differently; wanting to connect with a church and grow spiritually; discovering Christ; or wanting to know what was in the Bible.

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posted August 17, 2010 at 2:10 pm

This is one of the more balanced, honest discussion on conversions to and deconversions from faith. I particularly appreciated that the same canard of people departing from their faith due to “wanting to be their own God”, “rebelliousness toward God”, “moral relativity”, “backsliding into sin”, “belief in their own righteousness”, or “pursuit of worldly idols” and similar reasons did not come up. I wish we could have more honest discussions such as these. I think it would only serve to enhance empathy and understanding.

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posted August 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm

12% ex-Christians vs. 3% conversions means the church loses 4 people for each 1 gained.
It’s interesting that almost all the reasons cited for leaving Christianity don’t involve Jesus, but the church.
And we have to weave into that the fact that regardless of your views on homosexuality or birth control (as examples), there is a denomination that shares them.
Given that there is a veritable supermarket of Christian churches out there, that makes this trend a broad one. It’s almost like people leave the store when they see some of the products on the shelves.

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Kyle L. Olund

posted August 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm

“Fish,” that’s exactly what I was thinking . . . More Jesus and less religion is what needs to be preached. What a concept!

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posted August 17, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Consumerism plays a large role. We don’t like it, we leave. I found Peter Hitchens’ new book, “The Rage Against God” very refreshing. He takes responsibility of his actions disparaging and damaging the church, Christ’s Bride, over the years and slinks into the back of the church embracing Cranmer’s pentenential theology, asking for forgiveness. Meanwhile, we have evangelical American preachers delivering sermons apologizing to Madonna for the church not being loving enough–it’s our fault she doesn’t believe. Jesus said there will be some folks who will love the darkness more than the light but we tend to view everyone as earnest seekers who just haven’t been to a church loving enough.

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posted August 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I do think the church apologizing for some of the harm it has caused would be a step.
Many evangelical Christians and their churches supported the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan; are they repentant?
Look at how even the Pope tries to avoid accountability for child molestation.
The church seems to require a far higher moral standard of its members than it does of itself. IMHO, institutional evil is even worse than individual evil, for it carries along otherwise well-meaning people, but we rarely see any institution apologizing or repenting.

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posted August 17, 2010 at 3:21 pm

This conversation has kinda ticked me off to be quite honest. I watched the ABC special interview with her and read some things, and the media and even the way Scot’s title is phrased is not intellectually honest in my opinion. First off, she did not leave Christianity – she left the church – namely the Catholic church and some of that has to do with the fact that her son is gay and due in part to the church’s stance on that; but also the priest scandal; and an myriad of other issues in the Catholic Church. She emphatically stated she still believed and that Christ was still the center of her faith;and even showed her marked up bible as an example of her continued dedication to pursuing and understanding Christ – but the medial of course used the whole thing as a broad brush stroke to take a swipe that Christianity not the church (namely the Catholic Church).
Secondly, the title of this article is misleading in my humble opinion. The 60 million of which they speak are not leaving the church, they have either switched allegiances or left completely not all one or the other and more have switched rather than become atheists the way I read it. So.., to so say Ann Rice is not alone is only partially telling the truth of the study. It almost screams like “read me – I’m being controversial look!” Could this just be a case of what Jesus was speaking of when He said many will call “Lord Lord” and He will not know them? Meaning the church just going astray and leading folks of course through the centuries?
I dunno…, I hear ya.., it is a problem; but it is a problem that the church has developed and started – the idea that the Catholic Church or any one church and not JESUS is the example of all of Christianity is somewhat troubling to me personally. This is why the East split from the West in the first place, because they wisely understood the whore the church would become in the west and in much of the world – no?
Just my thoughts….
Peace out,

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posted August 17, 2010 at 3:23 pm

p.s. Pardon my typos – I am in kind of a hurry! :-)

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posted August 17, 2010 at 3:36 pm

The Design Spectrum
In other words . . .

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I choose to be anti-traditional marriage. I choose to be anti-women who choose traditional roles. I choose to oppose those who do not believe in birth control. I choose to be anti-Republican. I choose to be anti-Christianity. I choose to accept scientism. I choose to be anti-life and pro-life as I see fit. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
I also choose to stereo-type an entire religion in anger and frustration.

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Gregory Greene

posted August 17, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Faith: Trusting in God to grant you salvation through his grace and by the blood of Jesus Christ. Loving others as you love yourself.
Religion: A money-making scheme, as old as humanity itself, where a shaman, priest, minister, etc. acts as an intermediary between the people and the gods and charges for his or her services. Partaking in rituals and paying tithes are mandatory prerequisites for salvation, which comes about as a result of merits earned through good works. Each sect, denomination, etc. is the only way to heaven and all others lead to hell.
Familiar? For more along these lines, read my free e-book Walkabout: The History of a Brief Century at the link above.

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posted August 17, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I’m in full agreement with what Hillaire Belloc wrote many decades ago..
“There is no such thing as a religion called “Christianity” – there never has been such a religion”.
“There is and always has been the Church, and various heresies proceeding from a rejection of some of the Church’s doctrines by men who still desire to retain the rest of her teaching and morals. But there never has been and never can be or will be a general Christian religion professed by men who all accept some central important doctrines, while agreeing to differ about others. There has always been from the beginning and will always be the Church, and sundry heresies either doomed to decay, like Mohammedanism, to grow into a separate religion. Of a common Christianity there never has been and never can be a definition, for it has never existed.”

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posted August 17, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Anne Rice needs to understand what grace is… hint… it’s in the New Testament – can’t miss it if you look.

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posted August 17, 2010 at 6:22 pm

“I choose to be anti-Republican. I choose to be anti-Christianity.”
I think you have your finger on a large part of the problem right there. When Republican and Christian became synonymous, people who chose not be Republicans had the choice of either leaving Christianity or swallowing their principles. I don’t think Republicans have any room to complain about people leaving their church, frankly.
“I choose to be anti-women who choose traditional roles.”
Really? Anne Rice is anti-stay-at-home mom? Who knew?
“I choose to be anti-life and pro-life as I see fit.”
Really? Anne Rice supported the invasion of Iraq, crusaded against health care reform and favors the death penalty? Who knew?

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posted August 17, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Why not simply listen? Rather than asking “is Anne Rice right to leave the church?” why not hear what she has to say? Rather than crying “consumerism… darkness… anti-whatever” why not be like Job’s friends before they opened their big mouths? Speaking of Job and his friends, did you ever notice that God sided with Job the ranter/raver at the end, and NOT the defense attorneys for the Almighty?
Of course, I’d like Anne Rice and others to listen to me, too. However, it seems like this is a season where those of us who hang in there with the church will need to let others have their say.

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kevin s.

posted August 17, 2010 at 7:07 pm

“12% ex-Christians vs. 3% conversions means the church loses 4 people for each 1 gained.”
Not quite. Believing Christians (as Barna would define it) constitute a minority in this country. A percentage of a minority is smaller than the same percentage of a majority. There is a net loss, to be certain, but it’s not quite that dramatic.
I agree that Christians should cease to attach Christianity to extra-scriptural ideas (political ideologies certainly included). However, I don’t see a strong emphasis in scripture on those who once believed, but have decided to walk away from the faith.
We are called to make disciples, and that certainly means working with them through their doubts. I am more concerned for those who have not had the opportunity to embrace Christ than those who have experienced his grace and have moved on because of personal or ideological issues.
We can listen to Anne Rice, but I’m quite certain my church will go about its business regardless of what she chooses to do. We will focus on the people who are learning and growing with us, and those who have yet to experience the gospel.
We’re not going to apologize for the shenanigans of the Catholic church, or the political persuasions of conservative and liberal Christians. I don’t think that approach is going to bear fruit.

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posted August 17, 2010 at 8:05 pm

The Lord Jesus Christ gives the real reasons why people either leave the Christian faith or do not leave but do not seem to be true Christians in the parable of the sower, and they are very different than the ones given by the people polled.
The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23, ESV)
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: ?A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9He who has ears,a let him hear.?
The Purpose of the Parables
10Then the disciples came and said to him, ?Why do you speak to them in parables?? 11And he answered them, ?To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
??You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
15 For this people?s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.?
16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
The Parable of the Sower Explained
18?Hear then the parable of the sower: 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.b 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.?

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posted August 17, 2010 at 8:17 pm

While I’d like to think that I am good soil, and while I am in the church and can’t imagine leaving, I don’t know that I can saw that others who by conscience have left the church are necessarily bad soil

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posted August 17, 2010 at 8:30 pm

“12% ex-Christians vs. 3% conversions means the church loses 4 people for each 1 gained.” “Not quite. Believing Christians (as Barna would define it) constitute a minority in this country. A percentage of a minority is smaller than the same percentage of a majority. There is a net loss, to be certain, but it’s not quite that dramatic.”
The way I read it, those percentages are of the general population, not percentages of subgroups within that population. 12% of the population leaves Christianity; 3% of the population joins. I may be wrong. The overall trend does seem to be in line with what I see around me.
Interesting point about Barna though. His “tight” definition of Christian could be symptomatic of the entire issue: you either believe as we do, or you’re not really a Christian.

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Rick L

posted August 17, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Is it not equally accurate to summarize the survey results as follows?
“Over three-quarters of adults (77%) had not moved from one faith or faith tradition to another….about three-quarters of Americans (74%) said they had changed faith.”
I wonder why it is that the survey is represented in the way it is. I wonder what it suggests about the intent of the authors?

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posted August 18, 2010 at 1:52 am

Because Ms.Rice “came out” and announced her compromise to the world, in her own preference for choosing to be a “cafeteria catholic” religion, many who are looking for a an “easy” faith, will join her in compromising their faith as well, sadly.
“The wicked shall be weakened in evils.” Proverbs 24:16 When evils befall the wicked, they are weakened thereby; when evils befall the righteous, “the Lord strengthens all that are falling.”…”And lifts up all those that have been cast down:” all, that is, who belong to him; for “God resists the proud.” James 4:6

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Daniel Formerly from knoxville

posted August 18, 2010 at 3:57 am

” Either believe as we do or you’re not a Christian “. This attachment to, & love of, dogma, etc., has disaffected a lot of people,in past & present.
This is why the Christian church, both Protestant & Catholic, experienced an exodus, mostly of youth in the 60’s. Expecting people to be unquestioning drones who were self – righteous, prone to condemnation & intolerant is NOT what God or Jesus had in mind for His followers.

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