Discover the psychological secrets behind why people are leaving behind their faith and quietly quitting church as we sit down with esteemed guests Dr. Aaron McLaughlin and Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren. In our eye-opening conversation, we dig into their recent study “Losing My Religion ,” funded by the John Templeton Foundation, which aimed to understand the religious “dones” (individuals who once held religious beliefs but have since walked away from their faith).

We explore the four primary reasons why people leave religion: intellectual issues, religious trauma, personal adversity, and social reasons. We also uncover the intriguing "brunch replacement hypothesis," where people who don't prioritize religion pair up with someone who also doesn't prioritize it, eventually opting for brunch over church.

Don't miss our discussion on the practical implications of the "Losing My Religion" study for churches and individuals, as we delve into the need for genuine care and interest in people's stories and the importance of humbly loving our neighbors through their complex journeys.

Tune in now for this enlightening and thought-provoking episode.


Aaron McLaughlin, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research associate at the Ken Matheny Center for the Study of Stress, Trauma, and Resilience at Georgia State University. His research interests include studying humility and other positive psychology constructs and their relationships with well-being outcomes and cooperation in cross-cultural contexts. Additionally, he is interested in religious and spiritual research for supporting communities' mental health and well-being in intercultural or cross-cultural contexts. Aaron enjoys exploring different ways to brew coffee, going on adventures outside with his family, and being part of their church community.

Daryl Van Tongeren, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology at Hope College. A social psychologist, he has over 200 scholarly articles and chapters and three books, including his most recent book, Humble. His research has been covered by numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, NPR-affiliate radio stations, Scientific American, and Men’s Health. Darryl’s work has been supported by numerous grants from the John Templeton Foundation, and he has won national and international awards for his research. Currently, he is an Associate Editor for The Journal of Positive Psychology and a Consulting Editor for Psychology of Religion and Spirituality and the Journal of Social Psychology. He enjoys running, biking, and hiking near where he lives with his wife.


Here’s How Religion Imprints Us—Even When We Walk Away

Previous episode—The Changing Landscape of Religion in America

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This episode was produced by Wildfire Creative.

Theme Song “Turning Over Tables” by The Brilliance

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(Note to the listener: In this podcast, sometimes we'll have evangelicals, and sometimes we won't. We believe learning how to “do good, better” involves listening to many perspectives with different insights and understanding. Sometimes it will make us uncomfortable; sometimes we'll agree, and sometimes we won't. We think that's good. We want to listen for correction. Especially in our blind spots.)

Jamie Aten, Ph.D., and Kent Annan, M.Div. co-direct the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College and are also the co-founders of Spiritual First Aid.