Features 44

A Millennial’s Journey to Atheism


Christina Guy hung up the phone with tears welling up in her eyes. She slid off her bed onto the floor with a blank stare of disbelief. Her mother had told her the worst news she could possibly hear. Her sister’s father-in-law, Darrell Bland, had died in his hospital bed from pneumonia. Just a few days prior she was told he was miraculously recovering. Hearing that gave her more and more hope—not just that he would recover, but that maybe God did exist and was listening to her cries for guidance.

But then the phone call arrived. Her heartbeat elevated and she struggled to catch her breath after the short yet overwhelming conversation. A concoction of rage, remorse and frustration emerged inside of her. She sat motionless in complete shock, her mind went blank, and she gripped her knees to her chest like a child. She crouched in this position and wailed aloud as the tears started to flow. She wished that she could have at least paid him a visit, but no one expected this—the worst—to happen.

“I realized everything I believed in up until that point was a lie,” said Christina.

Christina found herself becoming a part of the 29 percent of Millennials that do not affiliate with religion. More than 27 percent of this group are college students, and this group is the largest population of nonreligious individuals in history. Millennials are choosing to be unaffiliated with religion in the highest numbers in the last 40 years. Around 36 percent of younger Millennials between 18 and 24 are unaffiliated with a religion, as are 34 percent of older Millennials between 25 and 33. Only 21 percent of Generation X does not affiliate with religion, along with only 16 percent of Baby Boomers.

However, it hadn’t always been that way for Christina, who is now a 22-year-old recent college graduate. When she was just six, she attended church every Sunday, Vacation Bible School each summer, and when she was old enough, youth group.

Her discontent began to emerge shortly after. The other children at church were all homeschooled while Christina attended public school. The others did not want to socialize with her for that reason, and so she began to feel like a pariah in her church during middle school. This feeling continued into high school.

Not only did Christina feel rejected, but she also began to piece together what she perceived as corruption within her church. While walking through her high school parking lot one afternoon, Christina saw something that made her stop in her tracks. The preacher’s daughter, Mariah, was opening the door to a brand new Mustang. Seeing the blatant luxury of her family was incomprehensible. Christina found herself confused, infuriated–and bold enough to ask Mariah such an out-of-place question.

“How on Earth can your family afford that car?” asked Christina.

“I guess my parents just love me a lot,” Mariah answered without much thought.

Christina’s outrage grew stronger with the response she received. She watched her mother put hard earned money into the collection basket each Sunday, and they donated even more at times when the family was better off. Her own family could not even afford a car for Christina–much less a Mustang. Christina began to wonder how much of her family’s donations ended up in the preacher’s pocket–she was convinced that it happened.

Christina stopped going to church in protest. She was angry at how corrupt she perceived the institution of church to be. She decided that she would be just fine having a relationship with God on her own, without the distraction of organized religion soliciting for donations.

Christina did not know what her pastor earned, but she sensed that something was off. This feeling she had plays out in real life. While the median salary for clergy workers in the United States is just under $44,000, the numbers vary significantly. A writer for What Christians Want to Know and blogger for Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith, Jack Wellman, said the lowest paid pastor in 2010 earned $0 while the average salary of a megachurch pastor was $147,000. The Houston Chronicle found that when church budgets are more than $10 million, executive pastors are paid nearly $100,000 more each year than churches that have budgets of less than $2 million.

The Leadership Network/Vanderbloemen 2014 Large Church Salary Report states that the biggest factor to church budget is size and attendance. In this regard, churches function very much like businesses. Those with the most “customers” earn the most money and have bigger paychecks.

Many churches today even allow online donations with a credit card–which sounds very much like the consumerist world of corporate America. Between 39 and 52 percent of the total church budget is spent on staffing, and typically, pastors make 3.4 percent of the total church budget. This extreme difference in the amount of money churches bring in makes it difficult to know for certain how much pastors make each year because there is no set standard or regulation to how much their salaries will be.

After just a few years of exploring spirituality on her own, Christina found her desire to attend church rekindled. She had been raised to believe that going to church was the right thing to do, so she decided to give it another shot. During her senior year of high school she began attending the newly built Maryland Community Church. This church had a giant amphitheater and three enormous screens that held lyrics during services. The building itself was a massive, modernized structure, and a lot of the churchgoers were other high school students. Sitting among her Christian peers, Christina felt her faith start to thrive.

This church, like many modern churches, did its best to appeal to a younger crowd. There was a coffee shop, a game room, and the congregation was encouraged to use their smartphone to follow along during services. Many churches today attempt to attract the growing number of disillusioned Millennials by appealing to what they think this generation wants. This includes “hip” pastors with tattoos and beards, live music, and giving away prizes at the end of sermons, such as iPads and cars. However, there is no evidence that suggests these efforts are working, and Millennials don’t seem to be coming back to the faith they left behind.

Christina’s revived faith was short-lived. After only a month, she was peeved that once again, so much emphasis was placed on money. The preacher of the new church started asking for more donations to help pay off the bills that had accumulated while creating the massive church. Christina waited impatiently for the service to end, and finally, she walked out of the church for the last time with an uneasy feeling in her stomach. She knew that she could not go back.

The reason so many Millennial college students begin to question religion are due to the ways in which our society has been shaped over time. Dr. Elizabeth Agnew, an associate professor of religious studies at Ball State University, believes that there has been a loosening of ties with institutions over the years, and there is more diversity–and therefore exposure to new ideas and beliefs. This erosion of trust and obligation toward institutions causes skepticism among many individuals.

Millennials especially tend to believe that others cannot be trusted. The Pew Research Center found that Millennials tend to not trust others more so than The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers and Generation X. Their low levels of trust may contribute to their more analytical and inquisitive approach to institutions, such as religion.

Agnew says that although there is movement out of religion, there is also movement between religions and toward a stricter version of one’s religion for some. However, the Pew Research Center found that Millennials who are unaffiliated with religion are most likely to stay that way when compared to all other religious categories. Therefore, Millennials who become unaffiliated are more than likely going to remain unaffiliated.

Not long after deciding to quit church once again, Christina was off to Ball State University. It was here that she made a lot of friends who considered themselves atheist. Throughout her first year and into her second, her beliefs were questioned and challenged. She discovered that all her church and family had taught her about the Bible and Christianity were not true.

Christina wanted to believe what she had been taught, but at the same time, she didn’t want to sink to that level of ignorance. It was when she discovered her sister’s father-in-law had suddenly developed pneumonia and was in bad condition that she knew she would get her answer. Christina decided to make an ultimatum with God. If he let Darrell live, she would take it as a sign that God was watching out for her and was listening to her prayers. If God let Darrell die so young, she would be convinced that there was no God.

Only one week passed before she got her answer. In the moment her mother told her of Darrell’s death, she internally assumed the identity of an atheist as she had a breakdown on her bedroom floor.

This trend of Millennials increasingly choosing not to make religion a part of their lives is slightly more popular among men, with 30 percent of men stating they are not affiliated with any religion compared to 25.4 percent of women, as found through The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2014 survey.

In the United States today, college students tend to reject organized religion in all forms and possess a different view than the one they were raised to have. College students today tend to formulate one of three worldviews: religious, secular, and spiritual. Each of these groups has distinct theological, philosophical, political and scientific views.

Christina would be considered to have a secular worldview. Forty-nine percent of this group were also raised in actively religious homes, just as Christina was. In the United States, nearly one in five adults who were raised within a particular faith now do not affiliate with religion at all.

Christina coped with Darrell’s death and her newfound lack of belief in God through conversations with her boyfriend, father and older brother. Her brother, Johnathan Guy, educated her on his approach to religion and God–which was rather mellow compared to what she was used to.

Johnathan believes many religions consist of cult-like affiliation and are in a way, brainwashing. He told Christina he believes most people pick and choose which parts of the Bible they want to believe and disregard the rest.

“I kind of started to realize not everything is this fairytale, storybook version I learned about in Sunday school,” said Christina.

This view is not atypical of Millennials. Eighty percent of Millennials tend to believe Christianity is too hypocritical. Nearly two-thirds of Millennials also feel that Christianity is too judgmental.

After sorting through her anger, grief, and other emotions, Christina began to identify herself openly as an atheist to her friends, relatives and her own mother. This revelation was a shock to her family, and Christina avoided the topic to prevent disagreements.

Christina went home for Thanksgiving in November–the first time she would be faced with her family praying together to a God she no longer believed in. As the family prepared to eat, Christina sat in her chair awkwardly, anticipating the prayer she would be criticized for not participating in. One-by-one her family members took their seats and began passing around food. This was perplexing to Christina, because this never happened until after they had all held hands and prayed. She finally spoke up and asked why the family didn’t pray this year. She only received a response from her niece, who also inquired about why they didn’t pray. It was in this moment of silence that Christina realized that they truly accepted her as an atheist.

She didn’t need a response to understand they didn’t pray because she was home, sitting around the table with all of her loved ones, who undoubtedly wanted her to feel loved also. She knew for certain that her family would stand by her decision—even if that decision was contrary to what they wanted. Christina sighed of relief. She was at peace knowing that throughout her journey of leaving behind religion and joining many of her peers in the largest group of nonreligious in history, she did not lose her loved ones in the process.

Illustration by Erika Espinoza

You Might Also Like

44 Comments

  • […] “A Millennial’s Journey to Atheism,” by Alex Kinkaid […]

    Reply
  • Kristian Simmons says: September 9, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    This piece was well written and researched. Thank you for allowing for readers to get a glimpse of someone’s reality. As a Christian I am saddened to see all that has happened not only to Christina, but what has happened through people claiming to be Christian and also living a contradicting life. This is such an important topic and the statistics don’t lie; rather than ignoring this I would challenge anyone else who has read this, Christian or Atheist or Buddhist or (insert “faith” here), to go a step further and talk about this with someone else. Maybe it can be someone who has differing views than yourself. Thank you again for sharing this story.

    Kristian Simmons

    Reply
    • Richard Burge says: September 10, 2015 at 11:35 am

      Hi Kristian

      I’m interested in why you used the phrase ‘claiming to be Christian and also living a contradicting life.’ Do you think people who lose thier faith were not really christians?

      And with regard to the contradicting life, do you mean not following the whole of the Bible, such as not eating shellfish, killing your children of they disrespect you and not wearing mixed fibres?

      I’d be interested in your answer.

      Reply
      • Kristian Simmons says: September 10, 2015 at 3:50 pm

        Yeah Richard!

        I will begin by saying I love talking about this stuff in person more so than talking through a monitor. That being said, when I was talking specifically about ‘claiming to be Christian and also living a contradicting life’ I should have also considered to the vagueness to that statement. I used this phrase because I think that many people have said they are Christian and don’t really know fully what it means to follow Christ or people say they are Christian and say you have to follow all of the “rules” of the Bible (If I am using too much Christianese I apologize). These “rules” would include the three examples you gave in your question. Now some will say they pick and choose what rules to follow, but I would venture to say no one could follow all of the rules even if they tried their hardest. I believe Jesus Christ was the only person to ever accomplish this, but I understand not everyone will agree with me.

        In regards to the first question you asked, I think if you lost faith in Christ I would ask the question did you ever place your faith in Christ in the first place or did you place your faith in the building, people, or your own “right-standing” before God? To be honest with you and anyone else reading this article and these comments, I don’t know it all and I don’t want to pretend that I do know it all. All I need to know is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, all else is still great, but not as important.

        I can’t stress it enough that I enjoy talking about this in person or even on the phone, but that may just be me. Thank you for asking real questions and I hope I could at least give a little insight on what I think is true about life, specifically life in found in following Christ. Thank you Richard for wanting to ask questions and being engaging! I’d love to keep this conversation going!

        Kristian

        Reply
        • TychaBrahe says: September 10, 2015 at 9:13 pm

          What you’re talking about is called No True Scotsman. It’s a logical fallacy, and a particularly offensive and presumptuous one. Basically, since you refuse to acknowledge that a Christian can become an atheist, you declare that anyone who claims to have been a Christian and now embraces atheism must not have been a True Christian. But you can’t possibly know another person’s heart and mind, and it’s very disrespectful to negate someone else’s self-description. The fact is that the ranks of atheism are full of former Christians, including some pastors.

          Second, you should study other religions. As for following the rules of the Bible, Orthodox Jews count 271 surviving mitzvot, commandments or prohibitions, in the Torah, and they strive to follow all of them.

          Now Jesus himself did not follow the mitzvot. In Luke and in Matthew he is quoted as saying that he has come to turn children against their parents, and that those who do not hate their parents and their children cannot follow Him. Of course, He may or may not have intended that anyone continue to live by the mitzvot, since he’s quoted as saying both that the Law may not be changed (Matt 5:17-19) and that it should be abandoned (Rom 7:6).

          All of this, of course, presuming Jesus actually existed, for which we have no contemporaneous evidence.

          Reply
          • Kristian Simmons says: September 11, 2015 at 12:34 am

            Hey TychaBrahe,

            I appreciate your willingness to call me out. I can honestly say that I didn’t know I was using a logical fallacy and after reading up about No True Scotsman I can understand maybe where you are coming from. I think you are saying (please correct me if I am wrong) that the definition of what it means to be a Christian is relative. I could say that I believe I am on the Ball State University basketball team when in reality I am not. You could then tell me that I am not on the basketball team, but if I believe that I am how can you say I am not.
            When I say that I also want to make it clear that in no way am I saying you have to fit into a mold to be worthy of calling yourself a Christian. And I don’t disagree with you in that some professing atheists did once labor in the church (physical building). I believe those people were genuine, but were never really confronted with the Truth of the Gospel.
            I am not trying to prove you wrong or anything, but I say that I am a Christian, but I am aware of other religions; I don’t know it all, but I do know about the mitzvot. In my Christian circle we call it the Law and Jesus did talk Good of the Law. I myself believe the Law is Good, but I could’t follow all of the 271 surviving parts of the Law. Even if I started right now in my life and would strive to “uphold” the Law, I wouldn’t match up. My good could never outweigh my bad.
            I am not the smartest person nor am I attempting to be. I do appreciate your commentary on the subject, but it’s not my job to convince you to think like me. You think like you based on what you know and I think like me based on what I know. I want to make it clear I don’t want to argue with you, but have simple dialogue about this stuff that is very important to me. I love talking about spiritual things and I can’t say enough how I appreciate this conversation. If you would like to talk more about this and what I believe I would love to send you my contact info to do so. I would also appreciate hearing about what it is exactly you believe.

            I believe Jesus Christ did live a perfect life, died a horrible death, and rose from the grave to not only save me from an eternal separation from God, but you too. He loves you so much and has done everything for you. The faith I believe in is most certainly not a blind one using logic, historical accounts, and spiritual experience. Jesus is alive and well and I would love to talk to you more about what He has done for you and myself.

            Thank you again TychaBrahe
            Kristian Simmons

  • Alex Kincaid says: September 9, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Kristian,

    I agree that we should step out of our comfort zones and start this important conversation rather than just ignore it. I think it’s great that you want to have all faiths involved in this conversation. It’s definitely a topic that requires all perspectives, not just a few. I appreciate your feedback and I am glad that you enjoyed the story.

    Alex

    Reply
  • Mark NS says: September 9, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    It’s very sad that it took this kind of tragedy to make an adult realize that a story with virgin birth, dudes rising from the dead, and a talking donkey was simply a ridiculous myth.

    Reply
    • BJW says: September 9, 2015 at 11:13 pm

      The thing is Mark, so many, many people in this country have been taught these things. And many people can’t even remember the first time they learned these things, because they are part of their deepest memories.

      Reply
    • Kristian Simmons says: September 10, 2015 at 12:14 am

      Hey Mark,
      I would love to talk to you more about this topic. This specifically is something that I am passionate about and I enjoy hearing differing views and having dialogue to discover some sort of understanding. If you are willing and live in the Muncie area, I am extending this offer to you about possibly grabbing food and talking about what you think. Thank you for being honest with how you feel I just hope we can talk more face-to-face rather than through a monitor.
      Best,
      Kristian

      Reply
      • MarkNS says: September 10, 2015 at 10:14 am

        Yeah, indoctrination is a powerful thing but having been raised a Catholic and dismissing it all as BS at the age of 13, I have difficulty comprehending adults who continue to buy in nonsense.

        Reply
      • MarkNS says: September 10, 2015 at 10:26 am

        Sorry, above comment was intended for BJW.
        Unfortunately, Kristian, I’m not in that area at all. I just stumbled across this article on line. Regardless, im not sure what there is to discuss re:religious belief. It’s self-evidently irrational and serves only to impair one’s ability to act morally. But thanks for the offer.

        Reply
        • Kristian Simmons says: September 10, 2015 at 4:04 pm

          Absolutely Mark!

          And thank you for your input! I would like to say that I know it all, but I know I don’t. What I do know is that my faith isn’t simply a moral standard for me and if I live my life that way I’ll be happy. I love talking about this stuff because I know it’s real. I don’t live in blind-faith, but I know that Jesus did live, die, and rise again. I know this in my heart and because it is also rational in terms of it being a historical event.
          I don’t want to convince you because I know that’s impossible, I only want you to know that the faith I profess is something that is real and it is not blind.
          Thank you so much for your commentary and its a bummer we can’t meet up and chat about this stuff!

          Kristian

          Reply
          • Bawls says: September 10, 2015 at 8:19 pm

            Hypothetically, if the historical evidence was inconclusive about the person and crucifixion of Jesus, what would you believe?

  • Richard S Mills says: September 10, 2015 at 1:07 am

    How extremely fortunate she is to have such a supportive family. They must be pretty awesome. I wish that sort of loving reaction were the norm. Sadly, it isn’t.

    Reply
    • Alex Kincaid says: September 10, 2015 at 9:10 am

      At first Christina’s family was not very thrilled that she chose to become an atheist, and they still hold onto hope that she will return to Christianity. But yes, she is very fortunate that they are tolerant of her beliefs and still accept her for them.

      Reply
      • MarkNS says: September 10, 2015 at 10:28 am

        It’s a sad commentary on Christianity when one is considered fortunate to have Christian parents who don’t act like jerks in response to one’s rejection of their faith.

        Reply
        • Liz G says: September 10, 2015 at 4:04 pm

          i think it’s less about christianity and more about other factors that come into play. I mean if you believe something very strongly and instill that into your children, obviously when the kid rejects that, at first the parents might be a little angry. Not because it’s religion, but because they genuinely believe that mindset will help their child as a person. If my mom wants me to eat an apple a day, and she enforces that rule until I’m 18 and then I choose not to eat it anymore after my 18th birthday. Obviously at first she is going to feel a little hurt, maybe because she thinks she didn’t do a good job at parenting or maybe because she thinks she could’ve done something to change the outcome. I think a lot of parents have struggle with this because they make decisions for us for most of our lives, always trying to pick the best thing for us, always keeping in mind they want to make you the best person you can be. So obviously when you challenge their decisions , it will catch them off guard and they might get a bit defensive, not matter if its about religion or an apple.

          Reply
    • marty says: September 10, 2015 at 10:57 am

      Yea, my family never prayed at dinner; whether at Thanksgiving or any other night. When I “came out” as an Atheist, they started praying at Thanksgiving and inviting their very devout catholick friends to join us.

      I haven’t had a Thanksgiving with my family now for 7 years… It’s very sad…

      Oh, and when I was in 7th grade (Evangelical school) I went back into to the sanctuary to get my jacket I left and witnessed my teacher (also the assistant pastor) putting money from the collection plate into his pocket. I told my mother after school and she said there must be a reason that I am not aware of.

      Yea, he is a lazy greedy jerk…

      Reply
  • Mari says: September 10, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Why does Christina receive the benefit of relative anonymity in this story but the pastor’s daughter doesn’t?

    If Christina was the only child in her Church to go to public school what was the pastor’s daughter and her car doing in the High School parking lot?

    Reply
    • Alex Kincaid says: September 10, 2015 at 9:05 am

      Christina was the only church member to go to public school when she was in elementary school. This was high school so more of the churchgoers went to public schools. Christina’s feeling of being rejected continued into high school, but all of the others weren’t homeschooled at this point. Christina is not intended to be anonymous, her name is Christina Guy.

      Reply
    • Kaitlyn Arford says: September 10, 2015 at 10:02 am

      We never intended for Christina Guy to be anonymous, and we are sorry it appeared that way. It is Ball Bearing’s policy to always include people’s last names the first time they are referenced, and this story has been updated to reflect that. If you return to our home page, you can also see that Christina’s full name is listed in the introduction.

      We weren’t trying to protect anyone’s identity. We simply made an error, and are thankful that you pointed it out.

      Thank you,
      Kaitlyn Arford
      Executive Editor of Ball Bearings

      Reply
      • Mari says: September 10, 2015 at 12:34 pm

        Thanks for the replies, Alex and Kaitlyn, I followed a link to this page and so did not see the introduction on the home page. I wonder would you indulge me once more and answer a follow-on question. I’ll give you a quick background in case you think I’m trolling. I live in lovely, heathen Europe and so find the religiosity in American life fascinating. The problems that young people have in being cut-off from their families if they leave the religion they were brought up with is particularly troubling to me as it is something we don’t experience where I live. So, I have read many of these types of stories. This one stood out for me and only because you specifically named a person who is effectively just someone who grew-up with Christina, who cannot change who her parents are no more than Christina can and whose only fault, as far as this story goes, is being a thoughtless teenager, something we can all relate to. In an age where internet witch-hunts can be drummed up at a moments notice do you think naming this person was a good editorial decision? Wouldn’t ‘the pastor’s daughter’ have been enough? My opinion is that you should edit to take down the name. It doesn’t enhance the story in any way and could possibly lead to all sorts of unintended consequences.

        Reply
        • Josiah says: September 10, 2015 at 2:06 pm

          Yeah, I agree. I was surprised to see the third party’s full name. She is extremely easy to locate online, once you know that her father is a pastor. I would recommend removing the last name.

          Reply
        • Kaitlyn Arford says: September 10, 2015 at 3:51 pm

          Thank you for having such thoughtful responses. We hadn’t initially considered the repercussions of publishing her last name. Ball Bearings uses the last name of any individuals involved unless there is a compelling argument to do otherwise. And in this case: there are good reasons for doing so. We have decided to remove her last name.

          We are using this experience to guide us in future editorial decisions. Thank you for addressing this.

          Kaitlyn

          Reply
          • Mari says: September 10, 2015 at 5:12 pm

            That’s well done guys. I think the magazine is presently in very safe hands!

    • Kelly G. says: September 10, 2015 at 11:03 am

      I think someone just tried to get me to drink watered down Kool-Aid. Ick.

      Reply
  • Douglas Domier says: September 10, 2015 at 11:24 am

    I am a “boomer” who found Christ at 21 yrs of age reading the Bible given me by my pastor at my 1st communion. This relationship with Christ totally changed me from the inside out.
    I started attending a Community Church of about 200 people and found an amazingly loving and caring family. They totally wrapped their arms and hearts around me. Could Christina’s dissatisfaction with God be That she could not get God to do for her what she wanted? Manipulating Their gods is the pattern in all the world’s religions. In Christianity true believers try to let God direct them….not the reverse.

    Reply
    • Ashley H says: September 10, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      Douglas Christina’s distrust of the Christian religion doesn’t stem from an ultimatum. It stems from the hypocrisy of the business of Christianity. How can these churches build these new massive churches with such luxuries while preaching that greed is a sin. Are these churches not a sign of vanity? The people who run them, the pastors and priests are driving the newest cars and wearing designer clothes and yet they ask for more and more donations and never say where these donations are going to. When is the last time these very same priests volunteered anywhere, or helped anyone. Then there is the bible, a book that says people can be swallowed whole by whales and spit back out again alive and fine, a book that contradicts itself constantly “God doesn’t keep anger forever” Jeremiah 3:12 and then “God keeps Anger forever” Jeremiah. 17:4. So when Christina finally said ok this is the last straw this is the turning point if he dies god doesn’t exist, it wasn’t because she just wasn’t a true Christian, it was because she couldn’t take the hypocrisy and lies anymore.

      Reply
      • Kristian Simmons says: September 10, 2015 at 4:24 pm

        Hey Ashley,

        My name is Kristian and you can probably see my posts from earlier, but I only had a comment about the two verses (Jer. 3:12 and Jer. 17:4) you used for an example of contradiction in the Bible. I only want to say that context is key in almost all readings, fictional and non-fictional. I won’t go too in depth, but by quickly glancing over the passages I see that in Jeremiah 3 God is saying to His people, those who follow Him and put their trust in Him, He doesn’t look down on His people with anger. In the passage of Jeremiah 17 God is talking about sin and those who don’t follow Him and haven’t put their trust in Him. I don’t say these things to convince you of thinking differently and I also don’t want to discount your feelings on the subject. I am sorry for you (even if this isn’t initially true) and anyone who has been hurt by a Christian. I apologize on their behalf and want extend the offer of continuing this conversation. I love talking about this stuff and hearing differing views than myself. I am sorry if I have offended you in anyway, I just wanted to bridge a gap in the conversation.

        Thank you Ashley
        Kristian

        Reply
      • Christina G says: September 11, 2015 at 12:02 pm

        Ashley H, thank you for this response. That is pretty much exactly what happened in my situation. I am aware that you are not suppose to give God ultimatums, but I was so desperate for a sign. I feel like my ultimatum was pretty selfless as well, I wanted him to live not only for God to prove to me that he existed but for my family. Darrel was the back bone to his family and provided them with everything he could.

        Reply
  • Derek says: September 10, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Patheos had a link to this article, and I read it with interest. I am a 45 year old white man, now living in Seattle, but who spent my adolescence and some college years in Fort Worth, Texas. Religion’s oppressive weight was inescapable, permeating every interaction. My family moved to Texas from Ontario, and I had never been religious, so the level of thought policing I found was incomprehensible. The bullying and discrimination I experienced for not being religious quickly taught me to shut up.

    For all your helicopter parents (please accept my apology on behalf of Gen X) and your being stuck in your phones, I’m glad Millennials are making this big break out in the open. For every one of you that comes out as non-religious, you encourage those who are too uncomfortable to leave, or who would experience unacceptable discrimination. Keep asking questions and thinking things through for yourself. Don’t be intimidated by judgmental mandarins who sit on boards or run things. Argument from authority is never a good argument. And please, please, please vote. It’s you, women, minorities and gays who will keep the religious fascists out.

    Reply
  • Vanidred Ferish says: September 10, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    LOVE this article; Is there any way to get the sources for your statistics? Does the Pew Reasearch Centre have information accessible online?

    I had grown up in a mostly unaffiliated home; My mother believes in God, but doesn’t attend church or anything like that. So, I was able to have all the freedom I wanted to choose which religion suited me best (with my families full support, they too believe, but dont practice with church and such)… I still chose atheism, because well, 90% of religiously indoctrinated people (that means, they believe, they go to church, AND they actively practice their religion) didn’t exactly leave me with fond memories, nor did they inspire me to ever want to join their congregation in any capacity.

    Growing up watching them; I noticed that there was extreme body policing. Women NEVER (even outside of church in every day situations) wore anything but skirts and dresses. I asked a close to my age once, she noted that pants were MENS clothing (strong emphasis on MENS) and God made us women, so we should dress like it. I couldnt help but roll my eyes. They also completely rejected science: Told me once around the age of 7 or so that dinosaurs werent real, and their fossils had been placed by the devil to steal people from Christ with science… Meanwhile I could pronounce properly the names, while identifying animals in their evolutionary chain basically from the Jurassic period onward. I devoured books on prehistoric life and the evolutionary tree. (despite being a believer, my mother was heavy on Carl Sagan, and Bill Nye while growing up; She believed in education first and foremost, and trusted in science.)… So to try and assert to my seven year old self that dinosaurs weren’t real, and were just a ruse to trick us seemed, well, really really foolish.

    The children of the congregation also liked to throw rocks at me from across the street as I left the backyard on my bike to go see friends “HEATHEN! NON BELIEVER!” and the like. Oh yeah, and Halloween was like the devils festival. One time I remember it fell on a day (Wednesday I think) where they were holding service, well, SHOULD have been holding service. Instead they were out in the front of the church, with signs, protesting Halloween. Little ones had to walk by seeing these angry people and hearing the nasty things they said “going to hell” etc. etc. etc.

    So, being in such close proximity, and having the absolute freedom to do so, and I still happily chose atheism. There is just no way, just no way that I could ever believe that for myself. BUT I will defend your right to practice your beliefs, just please dont try and make me come to your church. Some of my best friends are devout, and theres nothing wrong with that. Because their humanity trumps their religion, they love me for me and dont expect me to do everything they’re doing. It doesn’t detract from our friendship, I think our differences enhance them… I just wish more people could be like the religiously inclined friends I choose to surround myself with. People first, devout people second; Its a facet of your character, not your entire being <3

    Reply
    • Alex Kincaid says: September 10, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      Vanidred,

      The Pew Research Center statistics are accessible online and can be found on their website. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, and I’m glad this story resonated with you.

      Alex

      Reply
  • JSB says: September 10, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    This piece does good in that it brings into the spotlight some issues that I’m sure many Millennials face. However, it would have been nice to see an article about religion that was more well-rounded. Students who have adhered to their religious upbringing (but maybe have struggled), students who have tried out other religions and chosen a new one or stuck with the original, students who never identified with a religion but are being exposed to more world views now that they are in college…Christina’s story is an interesting one but it does not represent our entire Millennial generation, which is what this article seems to imply. You also say 29% of Millennials are unaffiliated with a religion and then you say it’s 36%…I don’t know which one it is, but either way it’s far from a majority. I think it’s important to give a comprehensive picture of religion in our young society if you’re going to take the Millennials angle and not just pick the one side that seems like a “sexy” story.

    Reply
    • Brad King says: September 10, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      Hello JSB:

      I’m the adviser for the publication. You can read all six stories in our package here: http://ballbearingsmag.com/2015/09/07/introduction-millennials-and-religion/. You’ll notice we have a Q&A with several clergy discussing how they are working to attract young people, we have an essay about the ways the Millennials of faith choose to worship, and our Instagram account (which you can see at the bottom of the home page) is filled with individual interviews with Millennials discussing how they worship.

      Reply
    • Liz G says: September 10, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      JSB,

      If you read closely, it states 29 percent of Millennials that do not affiliate with religion while 36 percent of YOUNGER Millennials between 18 and 24 are unaffiliated with a religion. Basically she was just breaking it down further to be able to see the contrast between the older and younger millennials.

      Reply
  • MG says: September 10, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Great story! I’m glad to see she received such love and acceptance from her family. Unlike her, my departure from Christianity was a much slower process. I’m happy to know I have company on the secular road to the future.

    Reply
  • A Millennial’s Journey to Atheism: Metrics | says: October 1, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    […] story has received 5,280 views as of October 1, 2015, and has received 38 comments on Ball Bearings’ […]

    Reply
  • […] created a conversation online about what it means to be a Millennial. We are leaving traditional religion in mass numbers. We are getting married later than our parents. We are grappling with what it means […]

    Reply
  • The Best of Millennials 2015 | Ball Bearings Magazine says: January 24, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    […] the largest generation in history, Millennials are outnumbering Baby Boomers and changing America. A Millennial’s Journey to Atheism, by Alex Kincaid Although raised a Christian, Christina Guy chooses to become unaffiliated with […]

    Reply
  • […] story has received 5,280 views as of October 1, 2015, and has received 38 comments on Ball Bearings’ […]

    Reply
  • Jumaat says: February 21, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Intriguing article. I unanrstded I’m somewhat late in posting my comment however the article would have been to the actual and merely the data I used to be trying to find. I can’t say i accept everything you could mentioned nonetheless it was emphatically fascinating! BTW…I found your website by having a Google search. I’m a frequent visitor for your blog and will return again soon.

    Reply
  • A Millennial’s Journey to Atheism – Alex Kincaid says: October 12, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    […] This story was written for Ball Bearings. […]

    Reply
  • Leave a reply