The number of religiously unaffiliated has increased from roughly 16 to 23 percent of the adult population, according to a study done by the Pew Research Center.
At the same time, the number of those self-identifying as Christians has fallen 9 percent, the study shows.
Perhaps some of the reason people are leaving Christianity to join the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated is because of the judgement they feel from members of their church, Michael Hidalgo, pastor with Denver Community Church, wrote for Relevant.
“Conversations abound of how people in the church cast judgment on others,” he wrote. “Yes, we are to discern good from evil, but we insist on judgment as a form of condemnation. In fact, from the people I have met, it may very be the single greatest reason men and women choose to leave the church altogether.”
One woman who recently decided to begin attending his services told him she had not been to church for more than 10 years because of the judgment she felt after making a mistake.
A study by the Barna Group sought to analyze how often those who identify as Christians follow Christlike actions and exhibit a Christlike attitude. The study suggested that more often than not, the people studied tended to act in a self-righteous fashion.
To be considered Christlike, participants were surveyed about whether they “try to discover the needs of non-Christians,” “see God-given value in every person,” “feel compassion for people who are not following God and doing immoral things” and several other questions.
The study showed that 51 percent of Christians exhibited these self-righteous attitudes, while only 14 percent of them acted Christlike and had such attitudes.
“Finally, the question of authentic faith — is a particularly sore topic for many millennials — who are often leaving church due in large part to the hypocrisy they experience," David Kinnaman, the president of Barna Group, wrote. "Again, no research is a perfect measure, but this study points out a sobering possibility: That the perception so many young people have of Christians contains more than a kernel of truth.”
Hidalgo suggests that often Christians act judgmental because the alternative appears weaker and requires them to accept that no one is perfect, which requires great love to act this way.
“The alternative is, of course, seeking to reconcile, restore and renew,” Hidalgo said. “This does nothing to feed us. Rather, it asks us to feed others — even those who should know better and those have wronged us. The alternative demands we stand under the other and recognize we are all in need of reconciliation.”