It’s a simple enough question and the answer is mostly horrifying.
It’s planes flying into skyscrapers, it’s child molestation, it’s woman being stoned and murdered, it’s gays being bashed in the pulpits and on the streets, it’s women who use birth control being called sluts on the national airwaves, it's clergy secretly practicing what they publicly condemn, it’s Koran burnings, it’s hardworking nuns being persecuted by their out of touch superiors, it’s funerals being protested with placards and abuse, and on and on – so are you surprised that more and more young people don’t want to touch religion with a barge pole?
Ask yourself, is there anywhere on earth right now where religious faith is actually brightening the lives of millions as it builds for a peaceful tomorrow?
Or is it more accurately depicted like this: in daily portraits of Christians who are bracingly righteous in their own beliefs and intolerant of all others; in Muslims who oppress women and each other with their intolerant and restrictive religious codes; in Jews who oppress their Arab neighbors. Just turn on your television and these are the images of religious faith in action that the world sees.
So it’s not a trickle, this march of disillusioned and alienated young people leaving the church, it’s a flood, because the truth is they’re leaving in droves. Religion equals intolerance now, thanks to decades of undeniably supporting evidence. Research conducted by the pro-Christian Barna Group in 2007 on Americans age 16-29 found that 'anti-homosexual' was the dominant perception of modern Christians. Decades of God being used as a battering ram to bash gays have appalled them.
The biggest mistake that conservative church leaders are making here in the US is to double down increasingly on the positions that have already turned young people off. In recent years Tea Party politics have become so intertwined with conservative Christian faith here that they have become indistinguishable. Religious leaders have allowed and encouraged this, in fact.
The hardening of ideological attitudes on the right can also be explained by the pervasive influence of religion on conservative politics. Christian conservatives on the right have been increasingly blatant about their desire for religion to shape public policy – you need only look to candidates like Rick Santorum or political action committees like National Organization for Marriage or Focus on the Family to see that’s true. We’re at the point now that the Republican Party could be renamed the Christian Brotherhood without much difficulty.
But while the older generation of Christian conservatives have been flexing their political muscles they appear to have missed the fact that instead of crafting an enduring victory they’re actually shooting themselves in the foot.
Among America’s young, the rise of ‘none of the above’ on religious surveys has increased in recent years from traditional numbers like 5–10% to new numbers like 25–30%. That’s astronomical. That’s what you get for seeing the speck in other people’s eyes whilst you ignore the beam in your own.
4000 years ago God could flood the world from pole to pole and start all over again; He could level cities and part seas. But for the internet generation growing up now He's mostly seen by kooks in their toasted cheese sandwiches.
If conservative Christians want to remind us why He was celebrated in the first place they'll have to start by reminding themselves: will it be Fox News or Good News?