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A Recipe For Disaster: The Ingredients

In my previous post I noted that the process of losing faith is like a recipe. Recipes consist of three parts, the ingredients, the preparation and the cooking environment. The ingredients are the personality traits, and personal values that individuals possess. The preparation is how individuals are discipled or socialized into the Christian faith. The cooking environment is our increasing secular culture.

In reality we only have any control over the preparation aspect of the recipe. The ingredients and cooking environment are out of our control. But knowing the kind of traits and values that make one more statistically likely to deconvert can be helpful.

Studies show that folks who are more inclined to walk away from their faith are those that are characterized by the following traits:

  • Intelligent: Atheists and those who have left the faith tend to be analytical thinkers who score above average on markers of intelligence.

  • Scoring High in Being Open to Experience: Individuals who are open to investigating opposing claims, seeking out new experiences and more inquisitive than average.

  • Low Tolerance For Authoritarian Leadership: No time for bossy, undemocratic, rigid, leadership

  • Low Tolerance For Right-Wing Leadership: No time for ultra conservative perspectives.

  • High Tolerance for Ambiguity: Not needing, or seeking finality in their belief system. Able to live without rigid parameters.

  • A High Value On Self-Determination: A need to determine what they will and will not do.

  • A High Value On Self-Control: A need to be in control of their lives and not submit to another.

  • University Educated: At least one year.

It's a bit difficult to know if the above tendencies exist before a person loses their faith and act as contributors to the process, or if they are a result of losing one’s faith. A number of studies (Hui et al., 2018) indicate that indeed, several traits do precede deconversion and therefore, do act as predictors of faith exit.

So what are we to do with this knowledge? One thing we can’t do is use it to determine who will, and who will not, remain faithful based on how intelligent, self-determined or educated they are. When it comes to finding or losing faith there are an innumerable amount of factors that are in play. And yet, the research shows that certain individuals, those who possess a number of the above traits are more likely to struggle to keep the faith. I propose that we need to keep this information in mind as we hand down the faith to those in our circle of responsibility. We may not be able to change the ingredients we have to work with, but we can be more intentional about how go about working with them.

In the next post, I will sketch the first of four ways we poorly prepare the ingredients. In other words, how we mess up in handing down the faith to those in our charge.

Until then, for my American friends, happy Thanksgiving.

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