Separating oneself from any type of organized religion is becoming increasingly popular. A recent survey done by Pew Research Center showed that among Americans between the ages of 18 and 29, one in four of them said they did not currently belong to any particular religion, and those that do belong to some form of organized religion are finding themselves bound by strict rules and expectations causing them to want to break free.
George Perdikis, co-founder of the Christian band, The Newsboys, shocked believers everywhere when he recently proclaimed that he is now an atheist. Perdikis released this statement on Jan. 21 in a guest blog post on patheos.com, a website that encourages a wide variety of conversations focused on the topic of religion.
As someone who was raised with religion and attended a Christian school from elementary to high school, I have to say I am disappointed by his statement, but I am not at all surprised by it. A recent trend responsible for causing Christians to renounce their belief in God is the claim that Christians are coming off as not only judgemental, but hypocritical as well. In other words, they are judging others harshly for their “sinful” actions when they themselves are participating in the same actions or have participated in them at one time or another.
“I always felt uncomfortable with the strict rules imposed by Christianity,” said Perdikis, according to Christian Examiner. “All I wanted to do was create and play rock and roll… and yet most of the attention I received was focused on how well I maintained the impossible standards of religion.” He wanted people to measure his life based on his ability to make music, not on his ability to avoid temptation.
Because of the strict rules that Christianity imposes on people, important figures that belong to the church are usually placed on a pedestal and have expectations of perfection placed on them, which is what Perdikis has a problem with. We shouldn’t concern ourselves with the way other people choose to live out their religious beliefs. We should focus on our own actions; the actions of others is none of our business.
As Perdikis moved away from a life focused on the church, he went on to discover what his beliefs really were. When his marriage fell apart in 2003, he began to focus on human psychology and by 2007, he had completely renounced Christianity and was calling himself an atheist.
A recent study was done by a research company known as the Barna Group in which they recorded millennials reasons for leaving the church. Among other things, the study found that 87 percent said that they felt the church was “too judgmental,” and 85 percent found it to be “hypocritical” as well, according to faithstreet.com.
Often times, I have found this to be the case among the majority of Christians. However, I have found that the struggle to follow the guidelines of Christianity is very difficult and impossible to succeed at perfectly. Everyone commits numerous “sinful acts” daily, Christian or not. Christians should not place judgement on anyone; they’re not God.
The Newsboys is a popular Christian rock band that has been around since 1985. You may recognize their name from the recent movie “God’s Not Dead” for which Newsboys created an album that shares the same title. This particular album hit number one on the Billboard Christian Albums Chart, according to patheos.com.
Perdikis met the other three original band members while he was attending high school. Peter Furler, John James, Sean Taylor and Perdikis started out doing small gigs at churches, pubs, parties, etc., according to patheos.com. Perdikis mentioned in his blog post that the choice to become a Christian band was heavily influenced by Furler’s parents who were fundamentalist Christians. They believed that the only acceptable music in the world was that which worshipped God, according to The Huffington Post.
A common theme in which you saw happen above with Furler’s parents influencing the boys to only play Christian music happens frequently today. A lot of children have Christianity or some other type of organized religion thrust upon them because of what their parents believe. Or in my case, their parents placed them in a religious school with the purpose of providing better structure and morals than a secular school. It didn’t have anything to do with being extremely religious.
But within a religious school environment, kids are not taught to approach the topic of religion with an open mind. I attended a religious school from kindergarten up until I graduated high school, and I can clearly say this was the case with my experience. I was taught that Christianity is the end all be all, and that every other way of thinking was untrue. And this may be the case, who am I to say that Christians or Muslims are right or wrong. Nobody has the right to judge any religion’s authenticity.
Breaking free of the regular Sunday church services and morning chapel services at college helped me to explore my beliefs on my own terms. I do still consider myself a Christian and believe there is a God, but I don’t consider myself in a position to look down on other people who choose to follow other paths or think I am better than them in any way. I believe that everyone should have a choice to believe in what they feel is right and not what others say is right. The fact that most kinds of organized religion frowns upon these things is what pushes people away from it as a whole, especially millennials. As of 2013, more than 25 percent of millennials had moved away from all kinds of organized religion not just christianity, according to onbeing.org.
Millennials do agree that organized religion holds some value, but there are a lot of things that they disagree with, and that is why most of them do not wish to be a part of any particular religious group. They are trying to put together the parts of religion they find value in like brotherhood and sisterhood, while not focusing on the superstitious aspects, according to onbeing.org.
It is not just Perdikis who decided to become more open minded about the topic of organized religion. Many other people of our generation are making their own decisions about the role that they want religion to play in their lives. It’s not just religion either, but things like gender and racial equality as well as marriage equality. When Buzzfeed created an article called “21 Classic Quotes Reimagined For The Millennial Generation,” they included these two in particular: “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all” and “be the change you wish to see in the world.” That’s all there is to it.
Caitlin Malone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org