Identifying Factors of Deconversion from Christianity Among American Adults: A Mixed-Method Approach

To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.


This paper presents results of factors that contribute to deconversion from Christiani-ty. Six hundred and eighty-nine participants (92.9% received a college education) who identified with some form of the Christian religion completed a survey comprising both forced-choice and open-ended questions. Using a concurrent triangulation mixed-method design, in which quantitative and qualitative methods are concurrently engaged, the quantitative component of this study led to a discovery of two key factors: believing that the church is out of touch with their lives and doubting that same-sex marriage is morally wrong. The common themes revealed by the open-ended data include "judgmental," "can no longer relate," "people of the church do not understand ideas," etc.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
The objective of this article is to illustrate that text mining and qualitative research are epistemologically compatible. First, like many qualitative research approaches, such as grounded theory, text mining encourages open-mindedness and discourages preconceptions. Contrary to the popular belief that text mining is a linear and fully automated procedure, the text miner might add, delete, and revise the initial categories in an iterative fashion. Second, text mining is similar to content analysis, which also aims to extract common themes and threads by counting words. Although both of them utilize computer algorithms, text mining is characterized by its capability of processing natural languages. Last, the criteria of sound text mining adhere to those in qualitative research in terms of consistency and replicability.
Full-text available
A new paradigm in the sociology of religion offers a compelling perspective on processes of religious affiliation. Drawing on rational choice theory, this paradigm views religion as a marketplace consisting of freely choosing individuals and competitive organizations. Religious affiliation is an instance of cultural consumption, guided by preferences that inform the actor's calculation of the relative costs and benefits of various cultural choices. In this article we examine the development of religious preferences that inform choices about religious mobility. Since cultural consumption is both individual and social in nature, we move beyond the rather narrow focus on socioeconomic factors and integrate family and organizational variables, hitherto treated as competing explanations of religious mobility, into an overall theory of religious mobility. Further, we move beyond the assumption of religious voluntarism, which underlies the new paradigm in the sociology of religion, to examine how religious choices are subject to constraints imposed on individuals.
Full-text available
Though often reliable, human memory is also fallible. This article examines how and why memory can get us into trouble. It is suggested that memory's misdeeds can be classified into 7 basic "sins": transience, absentmindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias, and persistence. The first three sins involve different types of forgetting, the next three refer to different types of distortions, and the final sin concerns intrusive recollections that are difficult to forget. Evidence is reviewed concerning each of the 7 sins from relevant sectors of psychology (cognitive, social, and clinical) and from cognitive neuroscience studies that include patients with focal brain damage or make use of recently developed neuroimaging techniques. Although the 7 sins may appear to reflect flaws in system design, it is argued instead that they are by-products of otherwise adaptive features of memory.
Using a quantitative research design, this study examined the patterns of growth in select faith-learning integration outcomes—critical thinking and perceived importance of worldview development—and the college environments and experiences influencing such growth over four years of college among students attending Christian colleges and universities. Findings show that students at Christian colleges and universities generally report “growth/development” or “positive change” in their critical thinking and perceived importance of worldview development over the college years. Findings also identified some Christian college environments and experiences that enhance positive change in critical thinking and perceived importance of worldview development.
The methodology used to construct tree structured rules is the focus of this monograph. Unlike many other statistical procedures, which moved from pencil and paper to calculators, this text's use of trees was unthinkable before computers. Both the practical and theoretical sides have been developed in the authors' study of tree methods. Classification and Regression Trees reflects these two sides, covering the use of trees as a data analysis method, and in a more mathematical framework, proving some of their fundamental properties.
Previous studies of church dropouts and the reinvolvement of dropouts in church life are either qualitative in nature and/or deal with relatively limited age groups or historical periods. The 1978 Gallup survey of unchurched Americans provides a unique opportunity to explore the phenomena of religious disengagement and re-entry in a quantitative manner that includes the entire spectrum of the life cycle and fifty years of historical change. This paper takes that opportunity as its point of departure, focusing on life cycle and historical variation in dropout and re-entry rates, and the reasons given by dropouts for their disengagement. Defining a church dropout as someone who has stopped attending religious services for a period of two or more years, the study estimates that 46 percent of Americans drop out of active religious participation sometime during their lifetime, with the dropout rate being greatest among teenagers. The teenage peak in the dropout rate is found across all categories of our control variables. The swelling of the dropout rate during the teenage years appears to be due primarily to the lessening of parental influence characteristic of this stage in the life cycle and a generalized feeling that the church has little of interest or relevance to offer. Once past the teens, personal contextual reasons for disengagement (e.g., moving to a new community, change in work schedule, poor health) predominate, especially for those over fifty-four. The study finds little historical variation in the dropout rate from the 1930s through the 1950s. In the 1960s, however, there was a significant increase in the dropout rate, with only a slight abatement of this peak rate in the 1970s. The study strongly suggests that church disengagement is a temporary, rather than permanent, stage in one's life. Up to 80 percent of religious dropouts, depending upon age at disengagement, re-enter active church involvement. The re-entry rate is shown to be greatest among those 25 to 34 years old. The net gain-loss rate for the population as a whole is positive only during the 1970s.
Which Americans remain in the religious communities and traditions within which they were raised? Which move to different traditions within their own religion, switch to different religious traditions altogether, or become non-religious entirely? And what social factors influence these outcomes and processes? This article engages the extant literature on religious retention and switching by using measures of religious tradition self-identification, instead of denominations, and by highlighting the dissimilarity of social factors predicting retention and switching for different traditions. Analysis of the 1996 Religious Identity and Influence survey shows that different social factors influence different groups of people in diverse religious traditions in dissimilar ways. The discussion attempts to theorize these findings.
If apostasy is to become well understood, social scientists must (a) distinguish it theoretically from other phenomena (e.g., denominational switching) and (b) conduct longitudinal research. This study proposes that apostasy be conceptualized as the process of disengagement from two major elements of religion: belief and community. A typology of religious careers was developed to approximate the dynamics of apostasy through cross-sectional data. Data were derived from self-administered questionnaires from Canadian and American undergraduates, with selected comparisons from interviews of a random sample of adults. The career types Apostates, Switchers, Converts and Stalwarts were compared in terms of origins, reported early family experiences, persistence of beliefs and sources of doubt. Finally, the consequences (concomitants) of apostasy-happiness, life-satisfactions, self-esteem, socio-political attitudes, gender traditionalism-were analyzed.
Religious disaffiliation or defection has receivedfar too little theoretical or empirical attention. A simple typology, constructed around "loss of religiosity" and "abandonment of communal identity," is helpful in interpretingfindings from selected studies of apostasy. Rather than rely strictly on demographicfactors and secularization theories as explanationsfor disaffiliation, the symbolic interactionist perspective known as "labelling" is employed to illustrate the subtle process of falling from the fundamentalist sect. The proposed typology and this social-psychological process combine to suggest some interesting, empirically-verifiable proposi
Those of us who have spent more than a few years in the church world may quickly find ourselves losing touch with the outside. This dangerous trend leaves us struggling to meet the needs of people we can't quite relate to anymore. Authors David Kinnaman, of The Barna Group, and Gabe Lyons took on a research study based on the belief that "God wants us to pay attention to outsiders because he cares about them." The result is unchristian. There are so many books out there written for those of us in the trenches of ministry. This one stands out. Rather than talking down to the reader from an expert position, Unchristian meets me right where I'm at, right on the front lines. I was challenged by what I read and impressed by authors who were well researched, well read, passionate, and admirably curious. It is Kinnaman's and Lyons' curiosity, concern and passionate desire to spread the Gospel that come through the pages of unchristian. "Christianity has an image problem." These simple words sum up the thrust of this book. The authors seek to define this image problem, to understand "the outsiders" who hold this negative view, and to consider solutions to change those perceptions for the sake of the Gospel. In particular the book concentrates on those in the 16-29-year-old age category, asking: "What do they think of Christianity? What do they think of the church? How do we reach out to them in effective ways?" Kinnaman's research, in true Barna Group st yle, prov ides some painfu l information with which the reader must grapple. In short, Christians have a bad reputation. Some of that reputation we have earned ourselves, some has been earned for us by other Christians, some has been pasted on us by secular media, and some is simply a result of the sinful world in which we live. The authors share the research in a straightforward way and then take aim at six broad themes which were the "most common points of skepticism and objections raised by outsiders." 1. Hypocritical 2. Too focused on getting converts 3. Antihomosexual 4. Sheltered 5. Too political 6. Judgmental The authors remind us that while we may not agree with the perceptions of outsiders, we should not ignore them. What people think about Christianity influences how they respond to us. "As you interact with your friends, the labels…are welded to what many people think about you. You do not have to like this, but it's a fact of our complex world." With this, the reader is reminded that it is not our reputations that are at stake here, but God's. So the question is: "Should you bother reading it?" Absolutely. unchristian is a book that provides quality research and facts as well as commentary that is productive—not just in forcing us to be honest about the "failures" of the Church—but in facilitating a conversation to look for answers, new directions, and opportunities. The authors detail the current perceptions and then offer a "new perception" for consideration in a well thought-out chapter-by-chapter approach. The research is solid; the authors are earnest. The book is sprinkled with a few well-placed anecdotes which remind us that these "outsiders" are real people who had encounters with Christianity that shaped their perceptions and therefore their reactions to the Gospel. Each chapter includes a section ca lled "Chang ing Perceptions" which includes insights and experiences from a wide variety of pastors, Christian leaders, authors, and speakers who are dealing day-to-day with the negative perceptions that plague Christianity. These "real life" examples of those attempting to change perceptions provide valuable encouragement and application. unchristian is a book well worth any reader's time. It is a book which contains hard facts that we need to hear to better reach out to our current culture. This is a book written not just to "the church," but also to the individual. It is written to ask us to examine our role in forming and facilitating the existing unchristian perception. It is written to challenge us to get outside the doors of our churches, our classrooms, or our offices and truly get to know those who are still on the outside. unchristian challenges the reader to do all of these things because there is a God that we represent and a world that needs to meet Him.
Recent and emerging technology permits psychologists today to recruit and test participants in more ways than ever before. But to what extent can behavioral scientists trust these varied methods to yield reasonably equivalent results? Here, we took a behavioral, face-to-face task and converted it to an online test. We compared the online responses of participants recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) and via social media postings on Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. We also recruited a standard sample of students on a college campus and tested them in person, not via computer interface. The demographics of the three samples differed, with MTurk participants being significantly more socio-economically and ethnically diverse, yet the test results across the three samples were almost indistinguishable. We conclude that for some behavioral tests, online recruitment and testing can be a valid—and sometimes even superior—partner to in-person data collection.
Many Americans exhibit declining religiosity during early adulthood. There is no consensus about why this occurs, though longstanding assumptions suggest the secularizing effects of higher education, normative deviance and life course factors. We evaluate these effects on decreasing frequency of religious practice, diminished importance of religion and disaffiliation from religion altogether. Results from analyses of the Add Health study indicate that only religious participation suffers substantial declines in young adulthood. Contrary to expectations, emerging adults that avoid college exhibit the most extensive patterns of religious decline, undermining conventional wisdom about the secularizing effect of higher education. Marriage curbs religious decline, while cohabitation, nonmarital sex, drugs and alcohol use each accelerate diminished religiosity – especially religious participation – during early adulthood.
The transition from adolescence into emerging adulthood is usually accompanied by a decline in religious participation. This article examines why such decline occurs at different rates across major Christian traditions and whether this variation can be explained by early socialization factors. Using data from waves 1 and 3 of the National Study of Youth and Religion (N = 1,879), I examine the effects of parental religiosity, church support, religious education, and youth group involvement on the decline in attendance five years later. Results show that these socialization processes adequately explain why attendance declines at different rates across religious traditions. However, these socialization factors do not have the same effect across traditions and often yield differential returns for attendance outcomes. These findings also suggest that comparisons across religious traditions can resolve the “channeling hypothesis” debate about whether parental influence on an offspring's future religiosity is primarily direct or indirect.
Surprisingly few studies have explored the implications of parental divorce for the religious involvement of offspring, especially in young adulthood. Our study addresses several theoretical argu-ments linking parental divorce with reduced religious involvement in young adulthood and tests rele-vant hypotheses using data from a unique sample of 1,500 young adults (ages 18-35), evenly divid-ed between offspring of divorce and offspring from intact nuclear families. Results show that parental divorce is associated with substantially lower self-reported religious involvement among young adults; however, there are no effects of parental divorce on non-organizational religiousness (prayer activity) or subjective religiousness (feelings of closeness to God). The link between parental divorce and reli-gious attendance appears to be due to the lower levels of paternal (father's) involvement in childhood and adolescent religious socialization among the offspring of divorce. A number of implications of these findings are discussed.
Recent advances in experimental methods have resulted in the generation of enormous volumes of data across the life sciences. Hence clustering and classification techniques that were once predominantly the domain of ecologists are now being used more widely. This book provides an overview of these important data analysis methods, from long-established statistical methods to more recent machine learning techniques. It aims to provide a framework that will enable the reader to recognise the assumptions and constraints that are implicit in all such techniques. Important generic issues are discussed first and then the major families of algorithms are described. Throughout the focus is on explanation and understanding and readers are directed to other resources that provide additional mathematical rigour when it is required. Examples taken from across the whole of biology, including bioinformatics, are provided throughout the book to illustrate the key concepts and each technique’s potential.
Patterns of religious disaffiliation: A study of lifelong Mormons, Mormon converts, and former Mormons
  • S Albrecht
  • H Bahr
Albrecht, S., & Bahr, H. (1983). Patterns of religious disaffiliation: A study of lifelong Mormons, Mormon converts, and former Mormons. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 22, 366-379. doi:10.2307/13857
Fundamentalism and authoritarianism
  • B Altemeyer
  • B Hunsberger
Altemeyer, B., & Hunsberger, B. (2005). Fundamentalism and authoritarianism. In R. F. Paloutzian & C. L. Park (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (pp. 378-393). Guilford Press. doi:10.7213/2175-1838.09.001
Can evaluation studies benefit from triangulation? A case study
  • E Ammenwerth
  • C Iller
  • U Mansmann
Ammenwerth, E., Iller, C., & Mansmann, U. (2003). Can evaluation studies benefit from triangulation? A case study. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 70, 237-248. https://doi. org/10.1016/S1386-5056(03)00059-5
Comparing the similarity of responses received from studies in Amazon' s Mechanical Turk to studies conducted online and with direct recruitment
  • C Bartneck
  • A Duenser
  • E Moltchanova
  • K Zawieska
Bartneck, C., Duenser, A., Moltchanova, E., & Zawieska, K. (2015). Comparing the similarity of responses received from studies in Amazon' s Mechanical Turk to studies conducted online and with direct recruitment. PLoS ONE, 10, e0121595.
Southern Baptist deal with tough issues
  • A Banks
Banks, A. (2020, June 5). Southern Baptist deal with tough issues, membership declines without annual meeting. Ministry Watch.
Churchless: Understanding today's unchurched and how to connect with them
  • G Barna
  • D Kinnaman
Barna, G., & Kinnaman, D. (2014). Churchless: Understanding today's unchurched and how to connect with them. Tyndale Momentum.
The religious drop-outs: Apostasy among college graduates
  • D Caplovitz
  • F Sherrow
Caplovitz, D., & Sherrow, F. (1977). The religious drop-outs: Apostasy among college graduates. Sage Publications.
Population aging, intracohort aging, and sociopolitical attitudes
  • N L Danigelis
  • M Hardy
  • S J Cutler
Danigelis, N. L., Hardy, M., & Cutler, S. J. (2007). Population aging, intracohort aging, and sociopolitical attitudes. American Sociological Review, 72, 812-830. https://doi. org/10.1177/000312240707200508
Did disagreement over Trump drive people out of churches?
  • B Djupe
  • J Neiheisel
  • A Sokhey
Djupe, B., Neiheisel, J., & Sokhey, A. (2017). Did disagreement over Trump drive people out of churches? American Journal of Political Science.
Generation ex-Christian: Why young adults are leaving the faith... and how to bring them back
  • D Dyck
Dyck, D. (2010). Generation ex-Christian: Why young adults are leaving the faith... and how to bring them back. Moody.
Pulling away from religion: Religious/spiritual struggles and religious disengagement among college students. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality
  • J J Exline
  • D R Van Tongeren
  • D F Bradley
  • J A Wilt
  • N Stauner
  • K I Pargament
  • C N De-Wall
Exline, J. J., Van Tongeren, D. R., Bradley, D. F., Wilt, J. A., Stauner, N., Pargament, K. I., & De-Wall, C. N. (2020). Pulling away from religion: Religious/spiritual struggles and religious disengagement among college students. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication.
Partisan differences show up in reasons why Americans support NASA
  • J Gitlin
Gitlin, J. (2019). Partisan differences show up in reasons why Americans support NASA. Space Policy.
19 striking findings from 2019
  • J Gramlich
Gramlich, J. (2019, December 13). 19 striking findings from 2019. Pew Research Center. https://
Cognitive dissonance: Reexamining a pivotal theory in psychology
  • E Harmon-Jones
Harmon-Jones, E. (2019). Cognitive dissonance: Reexamining a pivotal theory in psychology (2nd ed.). American Psychological Association.
By faith alone": Religious agitation and cognitive dissonance
  • E Harmon-Jones
  • W Tarpley
Harmon-Jones, E., & Tarpley, W. (1997). "By faith alone": Religious agitation and cognitive dissonance. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 19(1), 17-31. doi:10.1207/s15324834basp1901_2
Regression modeling strategies
  • F E Harrell
  • Jr
Harrell, F. E., Jr. (2001). Regression modeling strategies. Springer.
Exit interviews: Revealing stories of why people are leaving church
  • W Hendricks
Hendricks, W. (1993). Exit interviews: Revealing stories of why people are leaving church. Moody Press.
Religious socialization, apostasy, and the impact of family background
  • B Hunsberger
  • L B Brown
Hunsberger, B., & Brown, L. B. (1984). Religious socialization, apostasy, and the impact of family background. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 23, 239-251. https://doi. org/10.2307/1386039
Psychological changes during faith exit: A three-year prospective study
  • C H Hui
  • S H Cheung
  • J Lam
  • E Y Y Lau
  • S F Cheung
  • L Yuliawati
Hui, C. H., Cheung, S. H., Lam, J., Lau, E. Y. Y., Cheung, S. F., & Yuliawati, L. (2018). Psychological changes during faith exit: A three-year prospective study. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 10(2), 103-118. rel0000157.supp
Unchurching: Christianity without Churchianity
  • R Jacobson
Jacobson, R. (2016). Unchurching: Christianity without Churchianity. Unchurching Books.
A Churchless faith: Faith Journeys beyond the churches. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge
  • A Jamieson
Jamieson, A. (2002). A Churchless faith: Faith Journeys beyond the churches. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.