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Exodus: Is the Christian church losing critical mass?

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Is Christianity facing an exodus of, well, Biblical proportions?

There are clear signs that the passion of Jesus's followers is ebbing and the congregation is losing critical mass.

On July 28, in a spectacular renunciation of her faith, celebrated Christian author Anne Rice announced on Facebook that she was quitting the Roman Catholic Church.

Rice wrote: "For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."

She also pointed to recent statements from several radical Christian groups that have threatened the lives of gay citizens. "In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life," she added.

In yet another celebrated case, in August, 42-year-old Hollywood actress Julia Roberts declared she, her husband and their three children were practising Hindus. Roberts, who was born to Baptist and Catholic parents in Bible belt Georgia, is thought to have made the religious conversion while in India where she was shooting her new film, Eat, Pray, Love, in which she plays a woman hoping to find herself through Hindu spirituality.

Heartland Crisis
While these high-profile exits, coming shortly after the damaging exposes of rampant pedophilia in Christian churches worldwide, have no doubt caused disquiet in the over 2000-year-old faith, it is the less publicized but inexorable exit of once staunch members that is a pointer to the real crisis.

According to the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey, the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. Overall, the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76 percent.

The proportion of Americans who think religion "can answer all or most of today's problems" is now at a historic low of 48 percent. Meanwhile, the number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased nearly fourfold from 1990 to 2009, from 1 million to about 3.6 million.

Worse, the biggest decline in US church affiliation was concentrated in the north-east, America's Christian heartland. This massive decline in the Mayflower sector, where Christians first settled has caused acute anguish among conservative Christian leaders who fear America will soon become a post-Christian country.

Of course, there is denial. Christian commentators like to talk about revolving door membership, that people quitting the traditional churches are signing up at Born Again denominations. Sure, more than 34 percent of adult church goers today consider themselves Born Again or Evangelical Christians, but as the surveys says, "The challenge to Christianity in the US does not come from other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion."

Indeed, 27 percent of Americans do not expect a religious funeral at their death, indicating that they dismiss Christianity's zero-sum offer of heaven or hell.

European Sector
Across the Atlantic, Northern Europe is a virtual graveyard of abandoned churches. Further south, in predominantly Catholic Italy, over 60 percent of Italians have stopped attending confession. An entire generation of European Catholics has become indifferent -- or openly hostile -- to the church,mainly because of the sexual abuse of young children by priests.

In fact, there is a rapidly growing movement that seeks to rediscover the original and vibrant fertility religions of pre-Christian Europe, Wicca being the most well known. Incidentally Wicca practitioners, or witches and warlocks, were Europe's medicine people. Falsely accused of black deeds, millions of them were burned at the stake by the church.

Born Again Arrogance
Born Again Christians have long lived under the delusion that their storm troopers, a new breed of uncompromisingly fundamentalist pastors, are ready to kick in the doors and spread the Lord's faith worldwide. They also believe their moral compass is perfectly tuned towards god. According to them, they are simply better human beings with special suites reserved for them in heaven.

But surveys have repeatedly proved there's little measurable difference between the moral behavior of churchgoers and the rest. Evangelist George Barna, the founder of The Barna Group, a market research firm specializing in studying the religious beliefs and behavior of Americans, has found that born-again Christians are more likely to divorce than atheists and agnostics, and are more likely to be racist than others.

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Rakesh Krishnan Simha is a New Zealand-based writer.

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Put your faith in God, not in men. Men will alway... by Bob Gormley on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 8:46:08 AM
Love your enemy is a difficult act. Anne Rice miss... by Steve Consilvio on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 10:10:10 AM
I don't think you should condemn Rice because of a... by Debbie Scally on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 8:00:11 AM
For the clarification! JESUS WAS NOT A CHRISTIAN, ... by Margo on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 6:07:22 PM
I'd rather put my faith in Superman[tm]. Nothing f... by stoney stonehenge on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 8:53:50 PM
When I found that the organized religions love mon... by Raph Draake on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 10:27:46 AM
You may be right.... by Bob Gormley on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 10:47:27 AM
If you read the story about Jesus in the Bible he... by Bob Gormley on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 10:58:36 AM
Don't forget Jesus' hypocrisy.'Loving everyone' re... by stoney stonehenge on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 8:57:39 PM
Christian theology has such unimaginable depth tha... by WML on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 6:35:24 AM
Christianity is not 'foreign waters' to me. The ge... by stoney stonehenge on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 1:17:45 PM
The three forms of love represent three different ... by WML on Tuesday, Aug 17, 2010 at 5:25:58 AM
As I become more spiritual (be love, be peace, be ... by Philip Pease on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 12:14:34 PM
Based on the 'compassion' of the WW2 era; from the... by stoney stonehenge on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 9:04:02 PM
Modern studies of the so-called "dark ages" are sl... by WML on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 8:29:29 AM
Crusades, Inquisition, Heresy Trials, witch hunts,... by stoney stonehenge on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 2:32:21 PM
"All beliefs are barriers to the truth"Osho "Chris... by Kent Welton on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 1:56:34 PM
Hopefully christianity (and all religions) will so... by kanawah on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 2:08:45 PM
I have always concurred with Nietzsche's assertion... by John S. Hatch on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 2:39:34 PM
It can be, but more often its based on emotion. Th... by stoney stonehenge on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 9:13:49 PM
Most people who find God usually hit rock bottom f... by Bob Gormley on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 6:58:52 AM
With God being omnipresent it can't get lost.Hitti... by stoney stonehenge on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 3:11:06 PM
I have come to the same conclusion. It all comes d... by Bob Gormley on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 5:45:05 PM
I have come to the same conclusion. It all comes d... by Bob Gormley on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 6:03:15 PM
Children are naturally humble and believe anything... by Steve Consilvio on Wednesday, Aug 18, 2010 at 6:12:34 AM
This article, and Rice's comments, are overly simp... by Richard Pietrasz on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 3:23:16 PM
Seemingly the major icon of Christianity is of a m... by Roger on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 5:12:53 PM
The founding fathers did the best they could at th... by Native American on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 5:25:07 PM
Not a popular belief on this website, but until y... by Bob Gormley on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 8:31:46 PM
You're welcome to your belief.Yeah yeah, Xians hav... by stoney stonehenge on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 9:20:01 PM
Comparing Jesus to Osama Bin Laden?I think you're ... by Bob Gormley on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 6:52:19 AM
No comment about 'Xian prattling' or about the OT ... by stoney stonehenge on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 3:31:26 PM
Spent many useless hours with atheists, I think I... by Bob Gormley on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 6:07:49 PM
Comparing Jesus to Osama Bin Laden?I think you're ... by Bob Gormley on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 6:52:53 AM
Eventually, even the most willfully ignorant of p... by Joseph Reilly on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 9:09:39 PM
I'm sorry to have to disagree. Many take pride in ... by stoney stonehenge on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 9:27:46 PM
Religions make you: a puppet to a master. "For one... by Debbie S on Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 at 11:36:53 PM
No, Debbie, there is no choice. The Bible itself i... by stoney stonehenge on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 3:36:55 PM
Do you pay taxes? Do you like to pay taxes? Do you... by Debbie S on Tuesday, Aug 17, 2010 at 1:59:39 PM
Taxes are not a sign of the beast, though money it... by Steve Consilvio on Wednesday, Aug 18, 2010 at 6:19:00 AM
Sharing???Taxes is money.You support war, rich pol... by Debbie S on Wednesday, Aug 18, 2010 at 2:59:47 PM
Taxes are a means to an end. Not all taxes are use... by Steve Consilvio on Thursday, Aug 19, 2010 at 5:48:50 AM
I didn't say every one was a con-man. I said we ha... by Debbie S on Thursday, Aug 19, 2010 at 10:30:42 AM
This is definately good news . Whereever facts and... by Progessive 1 on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 6:14:19 AM
Education and the determination of fact vs. fictio... by stoney stonehenge on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 3:41:01 PM
In 1936 a Polish Anthropologist named Sula Benet d... by Garry Minor on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 8:14:17 AM
This is an interesting article. But it's a bit ear... by Michael Collins on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 1:20:30 PM
I have no quarrel with those who would suggest tha... by WML on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 2:21:52 PM
People often find it astounding when I say there ... by Bob Gormley on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 4:54:20 PM
Actually, science is founded upon the notion that ... by WML on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 9:43:03 PM
Actually, science is founded upon the notion that ... by stoney stonehenge on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 5:09:36 PM
I have no quarrel with those who would suggest tha... by stoney stonehenge on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 3:57:55 PM
If this article is true and the Christian churches... by Jann Swanson on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 8:24:03 PM
They'll increase the nattering about 'Satan' and t... by stoney stonehenge on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 4:05:28 PM
They'll increase the nattering about 'Satan' and t... by stoney stonehenge on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 4:11:03 PM
Gave it up after my ex-wife left me and our pastor... by Sharon M on Sunday, Aug 15, 2010 at 10:44:39 PM
From Biblegateway.com1 Thessalonians 5(King James ... by stoney stonehenge on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 5:23:58 PM
Humanity would be best served if they all became h... by Edward Saucier on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 9:57:53 AM
Jealous Gods come and go, and when they fall, no o... by Native American on Monday, Aug 16, 2010 at 8:02:47 PM