The New Atheists

Two recent reports have revealed alarming statistics about the state of faith in America. How should we respond? We obviously can wring our hands–the seemingly preferred method for any problem–or we can use this to spur us on in our quest to touch people’s lives and give an account of the hope we have in Christ.

The most recent report recounted that Protestants in America dropped from almost 2/3 of the population in the 70’s to just 48% of the population today. For the first time in America no protestant serves on the Supreme Court and no protestant is on the Republican presidential ticket.

Part of this comes from the rise of non-denominational churches which are not considered protestant in the survey.

The more alarming report reveals that 1/3 of the youngest adults in America have no religious affiliation. At the same time one-fifth of adults have no religious affiliation. These are the highest percentages ever recorded in Pew Research Center polling.

Over the last five years the number of adults without any religious affiliation increased from just over 15 percent to just under 20 percent of the adult population. This 20 percent of the population includes 13 million people who call themselves atheist or agnostic (about 6 percent of the population).

While this is unsettling, the poll shows tremendous opportunities for churches which speak the truth and seek to help lost people know God.

For one thing, this group consists of 46 million people, many of whom describe themselves as religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of this group say they believe in God and 21 percent say they pray every day.

While these reports are disturbing, they show the church has opportunity. How do we make a difference with these new atheists?

We must get to know these people on a deep level. Within each of us there is the need to have an anchor. No wonder the Bible describes God as a Rock, In Him we have security for today and hope for eternity. The fact so many people pray shows their openness to the things of God. We must help them see how God blesses. When people alienated from God see God at work in the lives of people, we have the opportunity to help others know God.

May we be found faithful as we reach out to our friends and neighbors.

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2 Comments


  1. Brad
    Oct 10, 2012

    All very alarming stats as I read the same thing. But there are 6 Catholics on the Supreme Court which is excellent as these are GREAT Christians


  2. Ed Matthew
    Oct 10, 2012

    There is something to be said about the observation of the previous bloger.

    Often my writing in this area takes me to the place of letting ones “Light so Shine.” Otherwise made known by me as the “living debate.” Family of God, We are losing the debate where it matters as a group. The question begs to be answered. Why are there so many non-denominational congregations? Why have the Later Day Saints, Jehovah Witness, and Islam received so many members from Protestant denominations? Incidentally, unless things have changed, where Protestant growth has occurred, the converts are mostly Catholic followed by Muslim and Jews. Few Atheists are won, supposedly because they just are not interested, not feeling the need or recognizing the hole within.

    May I address two points in the Great Debate:

    1. Dr. Bailey, you are living the “Great Debate!” No pressure. ;-). Someone was asking me recently about you. I responded, since I have known you in the 1980’s, you are one of the few who seemed to be the “real deal.” To me that is the highest compliment I can receive or have of my children. Incidentally, I had the Head Master of a school call me into his office to say exactly that about my younger son. Of course he did it with much drama, as I had no idea why he asked me to come by in the middle of the day to see him.

    Humans are tribal people, pack people. It is one of the reasons there are so many atheists affiliated with the Democrat party as well as non functioning or participating Catholics, Jews, etc. They have seen the teachings of Christ and the New Testament “run over,” dismissed by the so called “Christian Right.” They believe ignoring the social gospel is wrong and are striking back. Instead of learning the lessons taught by Christ and His Brother James, echoed by such notables as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the group known as “the Right” misses it and preferring labels to lessons and to draw battle lines. You do not have to look far to see mean, misleading or lies stated in the name of “god” by those who claim their cause is for God. Rather reminds me of the Eastern Church being attacked by the Western Church or the “Kingdom of God” movie made about Jerusalem and the Crusades. One historian suggests the origin of Islam was an attempt to join the Christian and the Jew in the seventh century (622-632) but tribal territorialism won out giving birth to a new world religion with yet a new hierarchy to the “One True God.”

    May we not be accused of the following: Your actions are speaking so loudly to me, I can not hear your words!

    Blessings! And again, THANKS. 😉

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I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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Verse of the Day

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. — Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)