Growing Up, Facing Reality, and Maturing Past Christianity?
The story is common. A young man or woman is raised in church, attends Sunday School, and has a child like faith. But when this person hits teenage years, they begin to open their minds to other ideas about the world, and they "grow up, face reality, and move beyond" the faith of their childhood. They embrace a worldview that relies solely upon science and "materialism" (the belief that material things, or matter, is all there is to the universe). This is the normal story of today's American atheist.
In this story, those who convert to unbelief "because of science" are actually less convinced by data and more moved by the form of the story that science tells and the self-image that comes with it. In this story, rationality = maturity. Moreover, the faith that they left was usually worth leaving. In the church's hope to make faith simple, they've stripped it of the necessary complexity to make sense of the world. The faith that our friends have left is usually an immature faith that can easily be toppled. What our friends who have converted out of Christianity don't realize is that they have also converted into a new faith, a "faith in science's abilities."
These stories of "growing up, facing reality, and moving beyond" are stories of courage. Courage to face the fact that the universe is without supernatural significance. So the convert to unbelief has "grown up" because they can handle the truth that our disenchanted world is a cold, hard place. But this cold, hard place is haunted by a sense that there must be something more.
If we are going to engage with our friends who have converted away from faith and toward materialism, we have to offer an alternative storyline. Instead of allowing them to believe that rationalism = maturity, we have to present the robust, complex understanding of the Christian faith that God gives us in the Bible. We have to tell a better story. A story of a God who is reconciling all things to himself, who will make the world new, and who invites us to join him in this work (Colossians 1:20).
*Largely taken/inspired from James K A Smith's How (Not) To Be Secular, page 77.