Don't worry, that is not an autobiograpical statement. No, it's the comment I've heard from more than one person lately. Christian family, raised in the church, Sunday School, Christian School, the whole nine yards.
That's a very serious and important question. It deserves thought, wisdom, and action based on the outcome of the thought and wisdom. I'm no expert, but I have been doing some thinking.
First of all, I don't think the God they once believed in was the true God. Yes, He was a form of the one presented in the Bible, but missing some major aspects of His character. None of us truly understands the depth and breadth of who God is, but I think we need to work on it. Particularly parents, pastors, leaders—all of us. People are developing their understanding of who God is from the teaching and example of those of us who claim to know Him. And it's not only what we say, but how we actually live it out.
A couple of the people who told me they don't believe in God anymore are now living in a gay lifestyle. Now there are many issues raised by that statement, but I only want to comment on one. If a person is confronting some homosexual thoughts in his youth, and the God he as been taught/shown is all law and no grace, he probably sees very few options open to him. If his parents respond in anger and throw him out of the house, a lot more is left behind than just the house.
When a large segment of the church wholeheartedly supports one political party and leader (read 'Republican' and 'Bush') and all of his policies, there is a strong tendency to jettison everything connected with that leader (read 'Christianity') if an individual has serious questions about some of those policies. In fact, there are bound to be anti-war followers who feel they have a higher degree of personal morality than the man/party/philosophy they are opposed to who claim to be Christian. When the party is so closely aligned to the church, those opposed will find it very easy to be alienated from that church, and the God it worships.
I realize that I am treading on dangerous ground. But no more dangerous than that of the portion of the church I have described.
A lot of thinking lately has been colored by the idea of extreme vs.balance. It seems pretty normal for all of us to swing to one side or the other of a philosphical/theological debate. Often the truth is to be found in a balanced view. The example I think fits here is law vs.grace. As we look at Christ, we see someone who understood and lived by a concrete knowledge of right and wrong, but also accepted and forgave people who weren't living by the same rules. On top of that, He offered healing and victory to those who needed to overcome.
I think if we live more like Christ, we will be helping people get a clearer, truer concept of the true God. A God who:
knows the best way for us to live. (And knows the consequences of bad choices.)
loves and accepts people who have and are making bad choices, and offers them forgiveness.
Also offers redemption and healing from the consequences, and the power to make the right choices.
This is who our God is. Anything less is a different God—in effect an idol. If we truly know our God, those we contact will likely have a better chance of knowing Him to.