In the 90s television series "The X-Files," FBI special agent Fox Mulder proudly displays a poster in his office of the now-famous phrase, “I want to believe.”
The poster shows a UFO above a group of trees and seeks to eliminate all ambiguity to paranormal leanings. But, I can’t help but link that phrase to my struggle with organized religion.
In the past few years, I’ve become more exposed to various religious denominations only to eventually determine they act the same despite their theological differences.
What I saw changed me and my perception of religion. I grew further from the church and I wasn’t alone. I noticed a trend: Gen-Yers were leaving the church in exodus-style numbers.
Why the large numbers of dissent? Why are so many members of this highly polarizing, highly misunderstood generation departing?
There are multiple reasons why this has been occurring, so I narrowed down the most common reasons why members of Generation-Y leave organized religion:
The fake attitudes
This is perhaps the least known reason why I left organized religion behind. The people, specifically their artificial, self-righteous personalities, often express a holier than thou persona.
Sure, I knew some followers who are truly honorable and have the best of intentions, but sadly, they serve as the small minority.
Throughout my experiences attending various churches and meeting their followers, it became easy to notice who was real and who wasn’t.
I became disenchanted with the fact many never lived the lives for which they advocated when they were outside the church setting.
I asked myself what it was about a church setting that caused many to change their behaviors.
If you call them out, you open a Pandora’s Box wherein they defend their double-standard behavior. Members of Generation-Y are far from perfect, but if there’s one thing do well, it’s assessing character.
Competition amongst denominations
I once said that organized religion is no different than college football. Each demonization has logos, mascots and colors, and each could easily be classified as its own separate conference.
Just like college football, organized religion is recruitment-driven, highly competitive, possesses large fan bases and jersey style clothing, and holds a distinct desire to outplay its respective competition.
Various religious denominations recruit followers away from other denominations, claiming they’ll find a better fit with the new religion.
I see bumper stickers that advocate for all religions to peacefully coexist, only to see them criticize each other behind the scenes. Yet, when they're all together, they pretend to respect and like each other in masquerade-style atmospheres.
Old teachings no longer relevant
I remember the days of being taught what’s right and socially acceptable, all based on what’s written in the Bible. But, how are we supposed to actually know the honest truth and teachings of the bible?
I’ve seen multiple denominations establish their own separate interpretations while accusing others of being wrong, but what if they're all wrong?
We tend to live in fear of a negative afterlife if we lead lives that go against the teachings of our chosen religious denominations. Maybe we have it all wrong; maybe we should live our lives in a way of kindness without worrying about what’s next.
I’ve come to see pastors as no different than corporate CEOs, and in some cases, they're even worse. Their pretentious and judgmental mindsets are a common theme of my years spent attending various churches.
Pastors had their favorites amongst church members while pretending to care about all equally. They advocated for simple lifestyles while living in luxurious homes within gated communities.
They had prestigious automobiles and made sure their churches maintain impressive materialistic façades. However, the world they served on the outside represented the exact opposite of the life they lived.
I’ve never seen anything more Machiavellian than church politics — it makes office politics look more pleasant than an episode of "Sesame Street."
A prime example comes when one chooses to pursue a leadership position in the church. A seminary hopeful realizes he or she needs a solid connection with his or her home church to have chance of getting accepted.
You basically have to make nice with the right people to get in based on solid recommendations.
Sure, enemies are made along the way, as is the case in other professions that require promotions to achieve the highest level of power, but all will be forgiven in heaven, right?
Going forward, I know very little will change — if any — with organized religions. The quest for power, money and followers will only continue.
Yet, the question as to why many from Generation-Y leave the church behind only perplexes the most devout followers as they turn blind eyes as to why they leave.
It’s as if they simply choose to live in denial while living in their own world of delusion.
Maybe Generation-Y is destined to be the least religious generation, or maybe, organized churches and religions just don't desire reform, despite some churches claims to make efforts to cater to their younger followers.
Despite it all, by leaving the church behind to begin anew, there comes a sense of liberation. It’s as if I’ve embraced my own flaws while accepting the flaws of others. Perhaps it’s time organized religion does the same, as the first step of a much-needed reform.
Right now, Generation-Y is the future of the church, and organized religion is missing that future in more exodus droves with each passing day.
As I stated earlier, just like Fox Mulder from "The X-Files," “I want to believe,” but how one can believe in an institution when it doesn't believe in its people?