Atheism Rising: What Can We Do About It?
We are faced with an alarming trend of rising atheism in our youth today. I will address this undesired trend and provide actions that parents, youth , and we as individuals can implement to help decrease this trend. Otherwise, as President Reagan said, “A nation not under God is a nation already gone under.” Let us all please rise to the challenge and reverse this trend.
As believers in God, we must use the talents He has given us to address this challenge in Generation Z (Gen Z), other youth, and adults with the “Go” that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, commanded us in what has been named the “Great Commission,” (Matthew 28:18–20). Our own Triangle Association for the Science of Creation (TASC) mission is centered around the Great Commission: “TASC’s mission is to rebuild and strengthen the foundation of the Christian faith by increasing awareness of the scientific evidence supporting the literal Biblical account of creation and refuting evolution.” I will address this further later in this article as far as outreach in which TASC is involved and how you can be involved to address the above.
A new study reported in the April 2018 American Family Association Journal by the Barna Group has found the following:
Generation Z (those born between 1999 and 2015) have been found to be the least religious in the country’s history, less likely to attend church services, and more likely to see science as superior to the Bible than older generations.
Figure 1 - A Generation Z (those born between 1999 and 2015) I met at beautiful landscape in West Virginia; used by permission.
The number of teens who claim to be atheist (13%) is now twice that of U.S. adults in general (6%). This is a much higher number of atheists than the generation previous to them, the millennial generation (7%).... The study also found that in general Gen Z seems more skeptical to the claims of the Bible and more willing to listen to the world’s interpretation of science. 1
I believe the statistics cited above for Gen Z atheism and for older youth and adults will not hold up in my church in Raleigh as I and others have been teaching creation and creation science (C/CS) there for 20 years. I will provide more on this later under the “What can we do about it?” section.
Stimulated by the above findings and concern about Gen Zs, I conducted my own interviews and research this spring in Tennessee and North Carolina and this summer during a coal formation study and some dinosaur research conducted in West Virginia (Fig. 1). I encourage you to try this type of effort adjusted to your particular talents to help reverse the perilous trend above.
My wife and I have five grandchildren that fit the Gen Z category, and we have one who is a millennial (Fig. 2). I wanted to report back to them and other youth and adults as well to share the C/CS information related to my findings and which we TASC participants discuss at our meetings and on which we write articles. Findings and concern about Gen Zs are represented by the following interviews with Gen Zs and my comments on them. Some efforts I made and materials left with them regarding “What can we do about it?” to help them are provided as well. I begin first with three basic types of Gen Zs that I interviewed on my journeys, followed by brief excerpts from others I interviewed. (I have changed the names for anonymity and security.)
Figure 2 - My and my wife’s Gen Z grandchildren; by permission.
Betsy in Tennessee: confused Christian.
This first interview of Betsy is the most typical Gen Z interview and will be more comprehensive than the others as I give background information and issues related to this type of Gen Z and incorporate lots of resources that I gave to Betsy available through TASC that one can use as one witnesses to help reverse the alarming trend above. The confusion expressed by Betsy, which centers around the origins account of Genesis in contrast to naturalism, is typical of our youth today. In my youth I might add, which identifies with what Betsy was experiencing, I also was confused as I was going through my secondary education and college majoring in biology and chemistry. Confusion is true of those youth who major in the social sciences, etc., as well, as naturalism is more and more the foundation instead of our Creator God and Godly standards taught in those areas. Hence, we see a changing culture today different from our older generations. I had become a Christian at age 12 and member in the church, with strong belief in God and Christ and with much Bible knowledge, including Genesis. I almost fell off the cliff into unbelief with so much naturalism exposure as I went away to college and into the world (Colossians 2:8). To keep my faith and help me clear my confusion, I prayed to God for the Holy Spirit I understood was given to me in my belief, confession, repentance, forgiveness of sins, and baptism (Acts 2: 36-47) and walk with Christ (Revelation 2:10). I believe God put me through those tremendous tests of my faith as a Christian and as a science major so I could be a strong, willing witness to Betsy, who appeared to be experiencing similar tests and doubts to mine. Other youth today, I found out, are experiencing similar challenges, and this perhaps explains their doubts and for some, sadly, their loss of belief in God.
iNow back to Betsy with the above background information in mind. Betsy was working as a waitress, to start college in the fall, in west Tennessee on the Tennessee River and Kentucky Lake near my boyhood home and where I fish in the spring. As she was serving a meal to me and to two of my Christian relatives, she overheard me talking to them about C/CS that supported a literal Genesis and a literal six-day creation and seventh day rest and worship, referred to as creation week. Betsy, an intuitive and outgoing young lady, asked me whether she should take Genesis literally or conform Genesis to secular science to comply with millions/billions of years of age of earth as espoused by naturalistic evolution, with which she was also familiar, or perhaps adopt that God directed evolution, which is theistic evolution. I indicated that theistic evolution would be an even more problematic position as it would make God a liar having made His creation “very good.” He then would have required struggle, disease, and death before sin and the penalty for sin, which is struggle, disease, and death (Genesis 3: 16-19). According to the Barna report on Gen Zs, this “Fall” to sin and its consequences are things the Gen Zs do not understand and point out to reject faith in God. This is in addition to much exposure to naturalism such as evolution that they are exposed to in their public education and the media. They seem to be unable to reconcile a good and the media. They seem to be unable to reconcile a good and just God with the existence of evil and suffering. Subsequently, parents and Sunday school teachers should study the Genesis account of origins with appropriate C/CS ma- terials (Fig. 3) for adequate understanding too and help their youths’ understanding by teaching them not to des- pair as God is a loving and just God. He provided redemption and salvation to those in the Old Testament
Figure 3 - Sampling of creation/creation science materials
who turned to and followed Him. God provides redemption and salvation to us today under the New Testament and provides us victory over death and eternal life through His gift and our acceptance of Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). Betsy asked me more about the creation versus evolution as she was concerned as she had biology and other science and social sciences in high school, was going to college in the fall, and already was confused as a Christian trying to make sense of the two competing views about origins of creation and naturalistic evolution.
Betsy was getting off from work and her parents owned the restaurant, so I could talk with her for a while longer to help her clear her confusion about origins with the C/CS knowledge with which I had been equipped through TASC. (I remember Isaac Manly, MD, deceased now, and Gerald Van Dyke, PhD, founding members of TASC, asking me to join TASC and my accepting over 20 years ago to clear up my confusion about origins.) Joining TASC also helped me as a scientist and conservative Christian and equipped me to write a number of C/CS articles like this one, which along with many other articles from a number of other authors are published each month on our TASC website. My C/CS articles along with other authors’ articles written over the past 20 years are being compiled into two books that TASC will publish this September. They are expected to be available to help many people like Betsy and others that I mention in this article, and to be a lasting testimony and glorification of our Creator God. I shared with Betsy my coming out of confusion above and to be looking for these Books I and II entitled, Restoring the Truth About Origins, through Lulu publishing and also available through our TASC website to help her and her friends in college and others in the future. Knowing that I would perhaps not see Betsy again until heaven if she avoids being deceived by naturalism and remains a believer, I encouraged her that she could help hold and strengthen her faith in God and Christ if she would be interested and let me sign her up to receive our free TASC monthly newsletter that includes a C/CS article each month along with other announcements. I also was able to give Betsy my TASC card with our website information and a packet of C/CS materials to study that I had left over from my winter C/CS class at my church (Fig. 3).
Fortunately, I also had made extra audio and video copies of Dr. Dan Reynolds’s (our TASC chairman) excellent presentation to the C/CS Sunday school class of 100 adults, 65 elementary and high school students, including Gen Zs, at my church titled “Trusting Genesis over Naturalism” that I was able to give her. More on this later as I list “What can we do about it?”
Anna in West Virginia: Christian turned atheist.
This was a sad interview that reflects the Barna report about Gen Zs. I had arrived late to the hotel during my coal formation study in West Virginia where Anna, to start her sophomore year in the fall, was working at the front desk for the summer. As she was not busy, I took opportunity to interview her on faith and her experiences. She indicated she had gone to church some coming up, did consider herself a Christian then, but apparently was influenced by the secular world more as she now professed straightforwardly and unashamedly that she was an atheist having been influenced by naturalistic evolutionary teaching and other secular thinking. Things were quiet so we talked a while longer, which included a brief overview as with Betsy, but importantly I shared the gospel with her in hope that she would reconnect with God and Christ. I had an extra C/CS packet in the car, which I retrieved and gave her as she would be gone in the morning. Also, I gave her my TASC card and encouraged her to go on our TASC website for more edification and sign up for our TASC newsletter. I told Anna to please contact me if I could be a resource in the future for questions or other concerns. This is a case where we sow, which is our part, and have to leave it at our Lord’s feet for Him to prosper, as I too will probably not see her again but can connect her to our TASC resources.
Brett in West Virginia: Christian remaining strong. Brett at a scenic stop the next day after Anna, coming
I met Brett at a scenic stop the next day after Anna, coming across the beautiful mountains and valleys of West Virginia into Virginia (Fig. 1). He was getting ready to start college in the fall. I was praying for God to show me a strong Christian that would lift my spirits and help sustain my faith. Bingo! Bret was that lift. I struck up a conversation and mentioned that I was a faith person. It was a very uplifting interview from there! It was obvious he knew lots about the Bible and the Christian walk as he admitted he was a Christian immediately. I did not have much time because I had to get back to Raleigh for the TASC July meeting for my guest speaker, but I believe God had planted him there for this needed documentary. Just in a few minutes, I was able to do a brief video with Brett. Because he was willing, I got permission to use the video at my TASC talk in August and pictures of him because it will be great joy and encouragement to my youth minister and youth group and their parents at my church as Brett was to me. We both prayed for each other and for this effort to reverse the rise in atheism in Gen Z. We also prayed for a rise in faith in God in our youth and adults and for unity in Christ! Brett and I exchanged contact information. I signed him up for the TASC newsletter to keep our contact going and told him to look for my article about this journey in September. We both parted rejoicing about our Creator God and mutual Christian faith and friendship! This interview with video and pictures still sustains me, especially when I get down, to get back up and keep sowing.
Gen Zs at the Beckley, West Virginia, Exhibition Coal Mine: a mixed bag represented somewhat by the three types above.
After I got permission from the coal mine tour guide, I videotaped a tour into the coal mine and a train load of about 40 Gen Zs about 15 to 18 years old with some parents and teachers (Fig. 4).
Figure 4 - Three generations includingGen Z; used by permission
I had some “small talk and greetings” with the teens and interviewed and, with their permission, made a brief video of a parent and three of the teen girls. I asked, ”How do you think that coal got down in the mine there and how was it formed?” The parent said immediately, “By God.” The two girls said they didn’t know. I then explained briefly the uniformitarian theory of millions of years and the matting of vegetation and trees theory perhaps by the worldwide flood as part of that coal formation or simply as the parent said, “Some might have been put there in the beginning by God.” Also, I explained that perhaps the flood waters covered the high hills and mountains already there. The worldwide flood would have covered other structures and resources for us to use and formed fossils as all animals and mankind died too and were covered by “Noah’s flood” waters (Genesis chapters 1, 7). I got yes nods by the girls when I asked if they had heard the uniformitarian theory in school, and I was encouraged when one gave a nod of understanding about the worldwide flood of the Bible, indicating perhaps she was a church-goer and Christian. It was so noisy around the other teens that I wasn’t able to get much more but simply shared briefly my C/CS view, with which they seemed to concur. The parent said she was familiar with Ken Ham and Answers In Genesis and was aware of the Ark Encounter. Hopefully, they will visit The Ark and Creation Museum only about 150 miles away to get the creation account as our youth do get the naturalism accounts by the guides in our national parks and museums. Hopefully, you parents will take your Gen Zs to the new Ark Encounter and Creation Museum as a witness for the Bible, creation account, and God as probably you intend to take them to Disney World, which is fun and educational but not much of a witness for God; rather, it is a source of secular ideas related to dinosaurs, naturalistic origins, etc. Thankfully, the Ark and Creation Museum are there for our youth to visit now, as these exhibits might be the only witnesses and balance that some of our youth may see as more and more youth and adults drop out of church and Christianity today.
Gen Zs and parents at New River Gorge and Bridge, West Virginia (Fig. 5).
I interviewed and videoed several Gen Zs and parents at this location, for which I do not have space here to share but perhaps can at a later time. The experience was similar to the coal mine experience at Beckley. History of the coal mine towns around the New River Gorge around the late 1800s and early 1900s was of interest because it was the mineable coal now and petroleum products that were placed there by God initially perhaps or ironically by the catastrophe of the worldwide flood of the Bible that powered our industrial revolution and the Navy warships that helped keep Europe, the U.S., and possibly the world from being taken over by the then evolution-influenced, atheistic leaders of Germany, e.g., Hitler. Interestingly, God has always been in control, even mysteriously, and will keep his creation sustained, although corrupted until His Son comes back and claims us who have believed in Him and remained faithful to Him (Romans 8:18–23).
Figure 5 - New River Gorge: coal town and railroad at bottom around 1900
Of significance, was the uniformitarian theory of coal formation of millions of years espoused on the placards at the visitors’ center and scenic views for our youth and adults to absorb as is true around our country and world, e.g., Grand Canyon and my visit to the Galapagos Islands (see my article on the TASC website addressing if Darwin really saw evolution in action on Galapagos Islands). This is all reinforced in our public schools and media with little choice or balance for our youth. Subsequently, we need to establish C/CS curricula and classes for our children and adults in our churches and provide C/CS materials in our Christian homes so our youth can effectively defend their faith in God. We need to teach the creation origins account of Genesis along with scientific evidences that support it. We must uphold our Christian belief system or we can expect further loss of belief in God and Godly standards in our youth and adults. These changes in our culture, without effective efforts to balance them and reverse the decline in belief in God, can cause demise of our country with God turning His back on our nation as he did the nation of Israel when they fell away as recorded in the Old Testament.
I provide some other Gen Z interviews briefly following:
Ben in West Virginia: said he believes in God.
Needs more Bible teaching to become Christian and can benefit from C/CS. He was a road sign holder for construction in the mountains, and luckily, or I believe by design by God, I was parked right up front with him and was able to witness for God and Christ to Ben to help him hold and strengthen his faith in God.
Nate and his dad at North Carolina beach.
Gen Z, 10-year-old Nate was asking his dad about the ocean, shells, etc. that he was picking up along the seashore with his dad (Fig. 6). I had a chat with them. I pray that Nate’s dad was sharing that God was the creator of all that Nate was
Figure 6 - Nags Head Beach, North Carolina. “Dad, was this created by God or by accident by evolution?”; used by permission
asking him about along the seashore. In a brief interview with Nate and his mom and dad, Nate’s mom shared that she was a Christian and I believe was taking Nate to church where he was learning about God and Christ. She indicated she was encouraging his dad to get more involved with her and Nate in church. Nate’s dad nodded. I got permission to use Dad’s and Nate’s picture along the seashore in my article. I encouraged the family to walk together with God and Christ and I believe I got an email address for the TASC newsletter.
Marcia in North Carolina: Christian turned atheist.
Marcia was a waitress at a Mexican restaurant where I enjoy eating. Things had slowed down as it was late, so we talked a while. She was a first generation in the U.S. as her parents had come here about 25 years ago and she was born here. She was a sophomore biology major in college. She confessed quickly that she now believed in naturalistic evolution, was now atheist, and supported the changes in morality now in our U.S. culture and supported the new practices related to such. I shared her interest in biology. I explained to her how the influence of evolution and naturalism had almost caused me to disbelieve, but I overcame this doubt through prayer and studying creation and C/CS. Unfortunately, Marcia had given up her belief in God, so I shared the gospel and appealed to her to return to belief in God and Christianity for her salvation and their influence on our country and need for this influence to continue today. I gave her a C/CS packet and TASC card and invited her to come out and hear me speak at the August TASC meeting and to go to our website for balance on creation versus evolution. I am praying for her and that I will have opportunity to continue dialogue with her. I ask that you pray for all the Gen Zs I have mentioned here.
Ted in my neighborhood: not committed to Christ yet.
Ted says he does believe in God and goes to church some with his parents. He will be a freshman at North Carolina State University this fall. I invited him to the November 10 C/CS seminar at his school and will follow up with him as I get specifics on the seminar. I gave Ted my TASC card and know where he lives, so I will follow up with him perhaps for more relationship building. I hope I can get him to invite other North Carolina State University students to the seminar.
Greg in North Carolina is a Christian.
Greg is an 18 year-old Gen Z lifeguard at my oldest daughter’s neighborhood pool. At breaks, I got to know him. He will be a freshman at North Carolina State University this fall. As I did for Ted, I invited Greg to the C/CS seminar at his school for November 10. He gave me his email to sign him up on our TASC newsletter. I invited him to participate in our college ministry at my church near North Carolina State University campus.
Corey, Tara, and Ellen in North Carolina.
Corey, the oldest, is 14 years old. He has accepted Christ and gone forward into baptism and his Christian walk. All three are in a Christian school. They are my precious Gen Z grandchildren. All three and their mom and dad came at my invitation to my “Youth and Faith in God...” talk at the TASC meeting in August, which was targeted to Gen Zs and their parents. This is the second year I have had Corey and Tara out to a TASC meeting. The last time the topic was dinosaurs with evidence they are thousands, not millions of years old, and were created on the same sixth day of creation as was mankind. Tara shared with me that the dinosaur talk and my documentary talk on Gen Z and coal mine formation and tours are helping her to trust and understand the Genesis account over evolution and that they help her to trust the rest of the Bible including, importantly, the New Testament. She is 12 years old now, and I can tell that her belief in God and Christ is maturing, and I believe she will dedicate her life to Christ soon. Ellen is almost four years old and is growing in her knowledge of God and Christ, already beautiful inside and out.
Carson and grandfather in North Carolina are Christians.
They need C/CS edification. They signed up for the TASC newsletter.
I did more interviews with Gen Zs and other youth and parents but will stop here.
What can we do about the rise of atheism in Gen Zs, in other youth, and, yes, in our adults?
I start with a quote from Edmond Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
1. Establish a C/CS curriculum and classes for children through adults in your church.
Children and adults need to be edified together so they can stand together for faith in God and practice their Christianity together. You will find support and also some opposition, but if you stand up for the program as I have over the last 10 to 20 years, I believe God will stand with you even as you may suffer some persecution. He will prosper your efforts if you will sow as he has mine. Since this is a key “to do” to help us reverse the rising trend of atheism and maintain and grow faith in God by youth and adults, I will share my experience at my church below for encouragement for you. I have college students come to me and thank me for teaching C/CS to them as they still hold and stand for their faith in college and after college.
With commission from our elders in 2010, some other C/CS advocates and I have established a C/CS curriculum and classes for kindergarten through high school, college, and adults in place now for eight years in my church. We are allowed to teach the C/CS classes in at least one session every three years, with some interim classes as requested or needed. We are on our third, three-year cycle this year. As a very needed “What Can We Do About It?,” these C/CS classes for children through adults are needed in all our churches. A thorough knowledge of our Genesis foundations, Genesis chapters 1 through 11, along with objective scientific evidences, are needed for our youth (and their parents and other adults) to effectively stand up for our Creator God and our Creator and Savior Jesus Christ (Colossians 1: 12–20). These C/CS classes also can be very evangelistic to our youth and adults, giving them a firm foundation for belief in God and Christ, along with other Bible study for accepting and proclaiming the gospel. This is necessary because in modern-day America, our youth are indoctrinated from their public media and public education (about 90% attend public schools) where they are taught naturalistic evolution mostly as fact with humanism, secularism, and materialism coming out of this naturalism philosophy. Naturalistic evolution proclaims origin of everything by pure chance and accident — what a faith in itself — without a designer God and no Godly standards; thus, our moral culture is also declining rapidly, having less and less protective bounds. This is increasingly contributing to Gen Zs’ like Betsy’s confusion I addressed thoroughly above and other Christian youths’ confusion, especially with a cumulative effect demonstrated by the Barna study to our most recent Gen Z. Even in some of our churches, Christian schools and universities, compromises have been made to accommodate naturalistic, progressive views and practices. The result of the above is about 60% of our youth are dropping out of church, many already gone by middle school, if not physically, then in mind and spirit. To check out these recent, unhealthy trends in our youth and in our culture as space does not permit it here, you may wish to acquire copies of the following research books from www.AnswersInGenesis/store. org: Already Gone published in 2009, Already Compromised published in 2011, and Ready to Return? Published in 2015. Although most of our country’s founding forefathers were religious and most were Christians using Godly standards to set up our just principles and laws, our children are now mostly forbidden to engage in any religious discussion in public schools supposedly under “separation of church and state,” which is not in our constitution but imposed upon our children by secularists who have much of the control in our public schools today. With a little courage by all of us, this can be remedied, as recently a major university in this area was sued by a Christian group because the administration pressured Christian students not to witness in the expensive, brand new student center paid for by our citizens’ taxes. They won under our U.S. Constitution First Amendment’s right of freedom of religion, “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion, nor prevent the free exercise thereof.” Yea! And yea for them for their Christian courage, even in the face of persecution! Thus, if you help establish a C/CS curriculum and classes for children through adults in your church, your youth can keep their faith as they go off to college by practicing it there on campus as the Christian students above and be able to continue to effectively stand up for their faith in God and Christianity, as they will be challenged. I offer consultation to you if you desire to set up a C/CS curriculum in your church (contact me at markvstephens@ yahoo.com).
2. Easily acquire your C/CS materials for your C/CS program and classes for adults and children
through C/CS organizations such as Institute for Creation Research, Answers In Genesis, Creation Ministries International, and Focus Press (Fig. 7).
Figure 7 - Elementary creation/creation science class materials by Answers in Genesis
3. Buy your children C/CS materials
interspersed between the material things you buy them and set up a library with them as you study together for both your needed edification and ability to hold and strengthen your faith and to help others clear up their confusion. Give some for birthdays and Christmas presents.
4. For a great witness for their faith in God, take your children to the new Ark Encounter and Creation Museum near Lexington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Many of you have already taken them to Disney World: fun, but not the faith-building experience as above. A trip to these exhibits will help to have them join you in heaven for fun forever!
5. Include church camp and other faith-building activities
in your extracurricular activities for your children and grandchildren. Send your youth to Patriot Academy Camps to learn how to apply biblical principles to politics and government. 2
6. Consider purchasing copies of TASC’s Restoring the Truth of Origins, Books I and II
as they are scheduled to be available this fall. Check out our website (www.TASC-creationscience.org) for information and availability this fall. These books will make excellent Christmas and birthday presents to place into your library for you and your children for excellent edification on C/CS by mostly our TASC board authors who have many years of knowledge and experience on the origins issues that can help keep your and your children’s faith in God. Importantly, too, it will help TASC provide more services and outreach as we will get a part of the proceeds as a nonprofit organization, e.g., it will help TASC put on a C/CS seminar this fall at North Carolina State University.
7. Get a subscription to AFA Journal by the American Family Association
as it will keep you up to date on issues that are affecting faith in God and the things needed to keep our country prospering under God.
8. Pray for the reversal of the rise in atheism in our Gen Z and other youth and adults.
Include your children’s teachers in your prayers that they would respect our children’s Christian values and provide balance to the naturalism to which they are exposed. Talk to them.
9. If you can make the sacrifice, enroll your children in a Christian school;
or if you can and believe it appropriate for your children, homeschool them.
10.“Aim at heaven, and you get Earth thrown in; aim at Earth, and you get neither.”
(C. S. Lewis) 3
As you pursue these 10 items, add more of your own with your creativity. An old associate once advised me, “When you die and go to heaven; if you have brought your children up in the Lord, God will give them back to you. You won’t need a job as He is going to take care of you forever!” Amen!
In closing, I pray and hope this article has brought to your attention the seriousness of the rise of atheism in our Gen Z and the potential decline of faith in God remaining in our older youth and adults in general. If not stopped and reversed, it could mean the downfall of our society and country. It is important that we not just sigh disappointedly about this trend and ignore it, but rise to the challenge and sow diligently with the projects suggested and those that you develop with your own talents for God to prosper. Also, I ask you to pray for the Gen Zs I have interviewed in this article and for our youth and adults in general.