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The Islamic State sweeping over Iraq has been marking the homes and businesses of Iraqi Christians with a red _nûn_. The Arabic letter (pronounced “noon”) looks like a “u” with a dot above. It is equivalent to our “N” and stands for “Nazarene,” a pejorative Arabic word for those who follow Jesus of Nazareth. It easily calls to mind the requirement that Jews display the Star of David in Nazi-controlled Germany. The Jewish identifier was a precursor to persecution in twentieth-century Europe, and it’s no different with the Christian identifier in twenty-first century Iraq. Yet Iraqi Christians have embraced what was meant as a derogatory mark. And now social media has exploded with believers around the world adopting the Arabic “noon” as they stand in solidarity with their persecuted brothers and sisters. The “noon” has become countless profile photos and the hashtag #WeAreN has spread rapidly. Reading reports on the “noons” made me think of another label growing in popularity: The Nones. No, not Catholic nuns. The “Nones” is the label researchers have given to those with no religious affiliation. When asked to identify themselves from a list of religious groups, one of every five now mark the option “None.” Among the under-30 Millennials, one of every three do so. That makes the “Nones” the second largest “religious” group in America. Most Americans were raised in families that were at least nominally Christian. So why do so many now check “None” on a religious survey? One reason is surely our too-human reluctance to identify with a mocked group. We’re astute observers of the professor’s smirk and the comedian’s snark. And we quickly learn that Christian beliefs and morals create severe social and career liabilities. So, when asked to identify our religious affiliation, it’s become convenient to shrug and say, “None. I’m spiritual but not religious.” So, in one part of the world people identify with the convenient label “None” while in another part of the world people accept the costly label “Nûn.” What about you? Will you accept the mocked mark? Though Western Christians “have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed” (Hebrews 12:4 GNT), that doesn’t mean it won’t cost you. But follow the Nazarene who “thought nothing of the *disgrace* of dying on the cross” (Hebrews 12:3). He’s holding your eternal reward in two nail-scarred hands. (cross-posted at www.anchorcourse.org)

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1 Shawn Bose = "Read more about this trend here at The Pew Research Center."
2 Yaakov ben Chaim Tzvi = "I don't believe that's the reason at all. In fact, while other world religions appear to be growing in size [Islam, Buddhism, etc.] Christianity appears to be on the rapid decline. I personally believe it has more to do with Christian doctrine than anything else. Other religions tend to appeal more to "common sense" in that they ascribe certain actions with personal and spiritual growth. As an example; the eastern religions attribute meditation and quiet contemplation with spiritual growth, while Judaism attributes acts of kindness, following the laws and Torah study to spiritual growth. Islam attributes strict adherence to their laws and devotion to Allah as an act of spiritual growth yet Christianity requires its adherents to defy logic by worshiping a Jewish man who lived 2,000 years as a god and as an instrument to somehow magically remove a spiritual blemish which can't be seen or felt. In addition, religious acts are frowned upon and as a result fail to connect the different denominations in a meaningful way other than through a common shared belief. However even the shared belief is up for debate as most Christian denominations can't even agree on the most basic doctrine.I can tell you from personally speaking with hundreds of ex-Christians that Christianity has created more atheists than any other faith. As we live in an age of reason, with instant access to the internet, books and all other types of literature, people are becoming more educated and scrutinizing their religious ideologies more. While this certainly affects all religions in some way, I believe that Christianity is affected more because it falters under deeper scrutiny when more closely analyzed.Of course this is just one person's opinion [mine] but based on my discussion with many ex-Christians, this is what they have explained to me as their reason for leaving the Christian faith. In addition, they made it known to me that once they recognized the various contradictions between the "Old and New Testaments" they were convinced that the entire scripture was the product of men and in no way inspired by "God". It's a shame that they threw the "baby away with the bathwater" as I believe that the realities of God are actually easier to see when viewed outside the limited Christian framework created by the church."