In recent years many people have left religion because of issues with the institutional nature of mainstream religious organizations. Some of the reasons stem from intensely personal experiences. After being ostracized from several communities because of her sexuality, Mary told me,
I didn’t lose faith in God, but I did lose faith in the church. I’m back now, but I still don’t fully trust it.
Still other people find the institutional structure to be stifling and draining. As Chris, a 29 year old who searched for a church home for years put it,
At the last church I went to before here, they just seemed to put up more and more walls and barriers so that it got to the point that to just have a simple meal in the church with some friends or a Bible study group had to go through like three committees. It just wasn’t worth it anymore.
Some of these people never come back to church, even though they maintain a belief in God. However, we also recognize that many of these people do come back to organized religion if they can find the right kind of community. Often, those who do come back view these worship groups as the only viable option in a sea of religious organizations that the find to be otherwise dissatisfying.
I didn’t come back to church. I came to this community. If this congregation didn’t exist, it’s not like there’s anywhere else for me to go. I mean, every other church I’ve been to just judges me constantly. That doesn’t happen here. I’m valued here, even if people don’t always agree with me.
In this project, The Dechurching of America, we are looking for stories to help us understand how the institutional religion in the United States is creating its own discontents. We want to put these stories together so we can find a way to provide more religious spaces for people who feel like traditional religion has cast them aside.
If this resonates with your personal story, or you would like to know more about the study, we would love to talk with you. Please contact Josh (Josh[dot]Packard@unco[dot]edu) or drop us a line in the form below so we can make sure and include your story in this important project. All participation is confidential and protected by the institutional review board at the University of Northern Colorado.