By Mark Mittelberg
“Mom, Dad . . . I don’t want to hurt you, but you need to know that since moving away from home I’ve started to have a lot of doubts about spiritual stuff you taught me growing up. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit and, well, the whole idea that there’s a supreme being who made everything and who hears all our prayers and is trying to guide our lives—I just can’t accept it any longer. . . .”
I can’t tell you have many times I’ve heard words like these when I talk with parents in my travels around the country. The details vary, but the pain in their voice is always the same.
Did you know that nearly one in three Americans under the age of 30 now describes his or her religion as “atheist,” “agnostic” or “nothing in particular”? Young people are dropping out of church at five to six times the historic rate, often because of intellectual doubts. Skeptical campus groups are becoming increasingly aggressive; the Secular Student Alliance, an umbrella organization for atheist groups, has quickly established hundreds of chapters in U.S. schools.
And it’s not just young people—Americans of all ages are being affected. According to the recent “Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism” survey, the number of Americans who say they are “religious” dropped from 73 percent in 2005 to 60 percent, while those who say they are atheists rose from 1 percent to 5 percent.
Doubt and skepticism are on the rise. Anti-religion websites are proliferating. Books by the so-called New Atheists have gone mainstream, many becoming international best sellers. Even if you have not yet run into militant atheism head-on, its effects are seeping into our culture.
Why are we experiencing this surge in skepticism? Has there been some big new discovery that disproves the existence of a creator? Have the claims of the supernatural been conclusively refuted to the point where scholars are justified in declaring there is no God?
On the contrary, the evidence for God is growing day by day as thinking people—including scientists, philosophers, historians, archeologists, and others, many of whom were former skeptics—find more and more support for the existence of God and the claims of Christianity.
Unfortunately, the average person, whether inside or outside the church, doesn’t know this. They haven’t been exposed to the wealth of information that addresses their doubts and argues so powerfully for the validity of the Christian faith.
We must address this challenge. According to Scripture, we need to “give an answer” to everyone who asks for the reason behind our trust in Christ—but do so in a spirit of gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
That’s why we’ve launched the Room for Doubt website; it’s why we are providing seminars for churches and workshops for conferences and conventions; it’s why Christian churches all over the country are planning to teach a sermon series called “Room for Doubt”—as well as start “RFD groups” and offer special events to address doubts and questions in an open, discussion-oriented format. We want to help people who are losing a grip on their faith—or who never had faith in the first place—to see the reasons why faith makes sense.
We also want to help followers of Christ, both within our congregations and throughout our broader communities, to learn about the evidence and answers that back up what they believe. More than that, we want to equip them to confidently share that information with the people around them.
Together we’ll tackle some of the toughest challenges to our Christian faith, hear stories of truth triumphing over doubt, and point people confidently toward trust in Christ.
And, with God’s help, we’ll prevent a lot more young people from shipwrecking their faith.
Mark Mittelberg writes on behalf of the broader team behind the Room for Doubt campaign at Lincoln (Illinois) Christian University and at Christian churches throughout the nation (www.roomfordoubt.com). He is the author of Confident Faith: Building a Firm Foundation for Your Beliefs (Tyndale, 2013), The Reason Why: Faith Makes Sense (Tyndale, 2011), and other books.