Yesterday I got an email from Matt, a researcher in the UK, who is completing some research near and dear to our hearts… why the heck are young people leaving the church? In true Cartel form I let him know I would tell people about his survey… but one day ask a favor of him. That favor may not be soon but one day I will call him and ask him to do something for me. Fortunately for him, that favor came due right away in the form of this interview below.
MB: Well, I’m quite literally all over the map. I grew up in Nova Scotia, went to college in East Texas, spent nearly a decade running a school in Sri Lanka, and currently live in Vancouver, BC where I design web pages and conduct research through a university in England.
TYC: What’s your research trying to discover?
MB: I grew up in a very tight-knit church and have always wondered why some of the young people I grew up with remained Christian while others opted to take different paths in terms of religious belief. It’s a question that many people have asked over the years and one that has become increasingly more relevant in light of the so-called ‘new atheism’. The majority of atheists today did not grow up lacking belief in God. Many, if not most, attended church for years as children and/or teens and then made a conscious choice at some point to embrace atheism. My question is why? And for those that didn’t choose atheism, why not?
TYC: A few studies have dug into a similar research question about why people leave the church, (National Study of Youth and Religion, Sticky Faith, etc) how is your work different than others?
MB: Most previous studies have focused on environmental factors such as parental relationships or the degree of religious emphasis in the home. I will be looking at these areas but also more innate factors such as personality type and certain inborn traits. The present study is also unique in that it focuses specifically on atheist churchleavers, rather than just churchleavers in general.
TYC: I understand that your original research aim has shifted a bit. Why did that happen?
MB: The overall goal is the same but the type of participants currently needed has changed. Somewhat unexpectedly, the research questionnaire went viral among the atheist community and I ended up with around 25,000 responses. This is great but in order to do a proper comparison, I need equal numbers of current churchgoers to complete the survey as well.
TYC: Spill the beans! What are you learning that we need to know right now?
MB: Well, previous research has shown that churches tend to cater to particular personality types over others. I can’t say much at this point but if the current study ends up showing that personality is indeed a factor in why some young people end up leaving, that will certainly be something worth thinking about.
TYC: Who should participate in your study? And how can we get involved?
MB: Anyone from the US or Canada who is 19 years or older and currently attends church is invited to participate by visiting the following link:
You can also help by sharing the link on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.