Why Do Christians Leave the Faith?


Over at Black, White and Gray, Bradley Wright is writing a series of posts on deconversion, answering the question, “Why do Christians leave the faith?”

Here are the posts so far:

In reading through these testimonies, and understanding how many of the former Christians linked their departure from the faith to these intellectual and theological concerns, I started wondering if the Church has an incomplete appreciation of the role of apologetics. Typically, the defending of Christianity encompassed by apologetics is aimed at non-Christians, helping them to understand the faith as removing their objections to it. I accept that, but perhaps an even more useful role is with existing Christians, helping them to think through these issues from a Christian perspective.

I am struck by how much these accounts resonate with sociological theories of human relationships, especially those coming from social exchange theory. This theory describes humans as judging the value of relationships in terms of costs and benefits. One variation of social exchange theory, termed equity theory, holds that people are satisfied with their relationships when they get the rewards that they feel are proportional to the costs that they bear. An inequitable is unstable, and it usually occurs because a person thinks they receive too little for how much they give.Many of the testimonies given by former Christians described a broken relationship with God as one might talk about a marital divorce. They are emotional, even bitter at times. They contain the language of inequality. The writers did so much for God – praying, attending church, following God – but God did not do enough in return.

The way that Christians react to the doubts of others can, inadvertently, amplify existing doubt. Many of the writers told of sharing their burgeoning doubts with a Christian friend or family member only to receive trite, unhelpful answers. These answers, in turn, moved them further away from Christianity.

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