Apatheists

Posted: January 11, 2012 in Culture, faith, Ministry
Tags: ,

USA Today had an interesting article (you can find it here) at the end of last year that highlighted a growing trend in regards to the role of faith/religious belief in society that I’ve wondered about, and maybe even at some level, have sensed as a new reality.

In the article, the writer was sharing stories and statistics that revealed a growing trend in our culture to “care less” about the idea of God.

While many Christians are getting animated over what appears to be a much more bold fundamentalist form of atheism (ironic huh?) perpetuated by individuals like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, & Richard Hawkins, the truth is, the percentage of atheists in the United States isn’t really going up.

But what does seem to be rising, statistically, are those who Hemant Mehta of the blog Friendly Atheist calls the Apatheists.  These are individuals who don’t know whether God exists are not.  They are unattached and unaffiliated with any religious institution.  Not because they are atheists and don’t believe.  But because…they simply don’t care.  They never think about the possibility of God and don’t seem inclined to ever do so.  They are living their lives day-by-day without any existential thought of “greater purpose” or “meaning” or “life after death.”

In a recent survey the statistics revealed this:

•44% told the 2011 Baylor University Religion Survey they spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom,” and 19% said “it’s useless to search for meaning.”

•46% told a 2011 survey by Nashville-based evangelical research agency, LifeWay Research, they never wonder whether they will go to heaven.

•28% told LifeWay “it’s not a major priority in my life to find my deeper purpose.” And 18% scoffed at the idea that God has a purpose or plan for everyone.

Of course, this has radical implications for the church.  It seems the task is not to provide an apologetic for the existence of God; nor to show the “truths” of our faith claims; nor to convince someone they are a “sinner” in need of “salvation” so that they can go to “heaven;” nor even to demonstrate the “church in action” at its best.   Why?  They don’t care.  And they aren’t interested in those questions nor the resulting answers.  When a conversation about “religion” comes up, they mentally check out and politely change the topic.

The challenge seems to be to get people who could “care less” to “care.”

And that, to me, seems the most daunting task.  How do you help people move beyond steep spiritual apathy?

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Comments
  1. Melissa says:

    The apathy extends beyond spiritual issues. You should try being single and finding someone who is passionate about anything or thinks about anything beyond himself. Who lives life with any sort of inentionality beyond having a good time. We’ve become a really boring people.

  2. Jim says:

    I think that life is, from time to time, bigger than we can handle. I think it is at those times that we become open to considering that there may well be a higher power. Perhaps the church’s job, each Christian’s job, is to look for people in crisis and offer them some hope.

  3. John says:

    In a time when money is so hard to come by 10% of ones income for tything amounts to less food or clothes for many of them…then they compromise on their discipline of every sunday, and feel bad because they cant make ends meet for their total picture…something has to go..and guilt sets in..then isolation occurs.. just a thought…

  4. I’ve tried to approach spiritual felt needs. “what are you struggling with that needs forgiveness…powerful help…hope…etc?” if we can’t show how God makes a difference, you’re right, churchy questions don’t matter.

  5. the other ed says:

    I think what drives me nuts the most is how the Catholic church has become the face for ALL of Chirstianity. 99% of the time, if an atheist is telling you why he/she is not a believer, they will reference Catholic Doctrine.
    I know from the outside looking in, we as a church (all of christianity, not our specific church) collectively, have not done a very good job in bringing in non-believers and apatheists. It seems like a lot of work to be a Christian. I have even had hard core Bible Baptists tell me that you can be THIS -><- close to Heaven and still go to hell. If you are already struggling with your faith, I can tell you, that won't help.
    Read Mitch Albom's "Have a Little Faith"… http://mitchalbom.com/node/5515

    There is a great story the Rabbi tells about the wide variety of trees as he makes an analogy between trees and different Belief systems.

    Faith is a fire. Everyone has to keep stoking that fire, but for some people, their life circumstances make that hard.

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