The way things are going, organized religion could be a distant memory by the time our kids are all grown up.
‘Cause millennials are turning away from religion in a major way.
In what may be the most extensive study conducted to date on changes in Americans’ religious involvement, researchers at San Diego State University found that millennials are the least religious generation of the last six decades – and possibly in the country’s history.
Researchers analyzed data from 11.2 million respondents from four nationally representative surveys of American adolescents ages 13 to 18 taken between 1966 and 2014.
Like never before, today’s youth are less likely to say that religion is important in their lives. They report less approval of religious organizations, report being less spiritual, and spend less time praying or meditating.
Most give up religion all together by the time they reach adulthood, but many aren’t raised with religion at all.
While not entirely surprising, the studies show that the lower religious involvement is due to cultural change, not due to them being “young and unsettled,” according to the authors. Meaning, today’s adolescents are less religious than Boomers and GenX’ers were at the same age.
Compared to the late 1970s, the number of 12th graders and college students who never attend religious services doubled, and 75 per cent more 12th grade students feel that religion is “not important at all” in their lives.
Twice as many high school seniors and three times as many college students in the 2010s answered “none” when asked their religion, compared to the early 1980s.
In our age of yoga studios and meditation centres, what’s also surprising about the study is that religion has not been replaced with spirituality. In fact, compared to the 1990s, 20 percent fewer college students described themselves as above average in spirituality.
Lead researcher Jean M. Twenge blames the trends on part of a larger cultural context – the rising individualism in US (and Canadian) culture, which teaches us to put the self first.
Meaning, we’d rather commit to ourselves (and likely our smart phones) than commit to a religious institution.