Friday, November 13, 2009

Reading: Already Gone

This is not a book review, because I haven't even finished the book yet, but I think this book is important enough that I wanted to share some preliminary impressions.

For a hundred and fifty years, antievolutionists and creationists have complained that evolution is not merely a scientific theory but that it brings consequences that are dangerous to individuals and to society as a whole. You know the kind of thing I'm talking about. "Evolution is an atheistic ideology." "Evolution teaches us we're no better than animals." And on and on. As a creationist, I've said similar things myself. But in every generation, we've said these things based on our own impressions or on anecdotes. In recent years, I've become a little skeptical of this line of thought, mostly because I've never seen any specific evidence for it (other than anecdotes).

Well, Already Gone might begin to change that. Answers in Genesis commissioned a survey of 1000 twentysomethings who used to attend Protestant churches but no longer do. The survey asked various questions about their beliefs, why they left the church, and how they view the Bible and other Christians. Though not a perfect study, this is an incredibly important first step. This is a genuine attempt to put some research behind the chief claim of creationism: that doubting God's word (because of conventional evolutionary science) is a source of spiritual decay.

On the AIG store's webpage for Already Gone, Ken Ham has a blurb about the book where he says, "You will be shocked and challenged by these results." He's right. What I found amazing was that the majority of those surveyed continue to see themselves as Christian and continue to hold conservative views on abortion, gay marriage, and school prayer (although not on premarital sex). Even more surprising was their general acceptance of the Biblical accounts of Noah, Adam and Eve and even Sodom and Gomorrah. They may not be active church-going Christians, but they are still very similar to what I would expect from conservative, church-going Christians. That raises the question of why they don't go to church anymore, but that question did not have one single, majority answer. Most surprising of all? Very few of those interviewed blamed evolution for their loss of interest in church or doubts about the Bible. Hmmmmm.....

As I've been working through the book and the data, I think the work could be improved tremendously with additional research. The one thing I really wanted to know about was how other Christians would respond to similar questions. What about twentysomethings who stayed in the church? What about twentysomethings who explicitly reject the Chrisitanity of their youth (and identify themselves as atheist or agnostic)? What about the older generation, the parents of these young adults? What about their pastors or former pastors? What about faithful Sunday School teachers? So many possibilities.

I'm especially interested in comparing these results to young adults who chose to remain active in local churches and their parents. What differences exist between young adults raised Christian who do or do not continue to attend church? What differences exist between the parents of young adults that do or do not continue to attend church? That could really start to get to the heart of the issue. As it is, Already Gone only gives us a partial glimpse into the modern disillusionment with church and Christianity. It's an important glimpse, to be sure, but it's hopefully just the beginning.

Despite these shortcomings, Already Gone is an important work that you really need to examine very carefully. I sincerely hope that Ken Ham and the rest of the leadership at AIG will make furtherance of this kind of research at least one priority of their organization. There's a lot more that could be done, and the results could be truly invaluable.

Ham and Beemer. 2009. Already Gone. Master Books.