Why is atheism and non-belief on the rise?

by Matt Slick

Those who identify with no religious affiliation as well as strong atheism (open denial of God), have increased in number in America over the past few years. Also, it appears that more people are also leaving the Christian faith than ever before. Why is this? I have not taken a survey to find out why, so all I can do is offer some observations based on my dealings with atheists, and those who love Christianity, that I have had over the past few years. Following is what I've gleaned as reasons for the increase of "no religious affiliation" and people leaving the Christian faith.

  1. Lack of proper action/teaching by Christians
  2. Christianity as an institution has failed in our culture
  3. Rise of secularism
    1. Hostility to Christianity in higher education
    2. Decrease in critical thinking
    3. The rise of science
  4. Increase in spiritual oppression

Lack of Proper Action/Teaching by Christians

One of the problems I see that contributes to the increase of non-religious affiliation is a lack of proper behavior and teaching by Christians. There seems to be too much self-centeredness within the Christian faith as is evidenced by the materialistic attitudes so many Christians manifest at the behest of bad TV evangelists, an overt concern for the material, a lack of concern for the Great Commission, etc.

I've found that fewer and fewer Christians understand what the Christian faith is about. Many cannot articulate the doctrine of the Trinity or defend the deity of Christ. Many Christians do not know what justification by faith is, and there are far too many who hold to the idea that salvation is maintained through their good effort.

So, there seems to be a lack of proper theological instruction within churches and with it, a false presentation of Christianity is being promoted. People are leaving the false representation thinking it's the real thing. Now, I cannot speak for all pastors but I wonder how many of them are teaching biblical theology from the pulpit instead of providing fun stories, and cool illustrations meant to entertain and bring people into the building. I ask this because over the years I have become more and more aware that Christians don't seem to have a very thorough understanding of Christianity regarding such things as the Trinity, justification, imputation, God sovereignty, etc. Of course, my observations are subjective and may not be entirely accurate.

Christianity as an Institution has Failed in our Culture

Strictly speaking, Christianity has not failed our culture entirely. Christianity has done many good things for our world. However, I don't believe we have done enough. Since Christians have the power of the Word of God (Isaiah 55:11; Romans 1:16), and since we are also commanded to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), then Christianity should be having a very positive and universal effect in the world. But since it is not, then I can only conclude that Christianity, as represented by so many Christians, has failed to carry out the Great Commission that Christ commanded. The failure is not due to the message, nor the person of Christ, nor the teachings of Christianity. The failure is due to the adherents of the faith, we who are not walking in faith in order to expand the Kingdom of God. It is as though Christians don't believe in the power of the word of God. So they meagerly accept various forms of defeat and allow the gates of hell to prevail against the church - in spite of what Christ said in Matthew 16:18, "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it."

The Rise of Secularism

In the numbered list above, there are too many subtopics to address here in the category of secularism. Nevertheless, as a whole, it is a philosophical approach to understanding our world from a perspective that excludes God. In concert with this is science which is an atheistic approach to learning about the world. Science is, basically, a method of looking at the material world and through observation, hypothesis, and experimentation, it develops theories on how things work. With the knowledge thus gained, we have such benefits as computers, airplanes, medicines, etc. Unfortunately, science, with its atheistic suppositions, inadvertently supports secularism and in turn, the materialistic philosophy of secularism is also promoted. Because this couplet of "godless assumptions" is promoted, and also because Christianity has not properly addressed it, people fail to see the need for God. They then place their eyes upon what is practical and "what works" instead of seeking God and his goodness, his love, and his forgiveness.

Increase in Spiritual Oppression

Ephesians 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Scripture tells us that there is a spiritual realm with which we Christians are at war. Through the revelation of God's Word, we can surmise that there is a continued and increased spiritual oppression that is at work in the world. 2 Timothy 2:25 tells us that the god of this world (the devil) has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they will not trust in the gospel of Christ. So, there is a spiritual aspect to the rise of secularism that we cannot discount. As Christians, we need to continue to pray and to work against the rise of the ungodly manifestations in both the spiritual and physical realms.  


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.