Researchers find millennials are by far the least religious generation

May 27, 2015 by Beth Downing Chee, San Diego State University
The least religious generation
A dictionary definition of faith.

In what may be the largest study ever conducted on changes in Americans' religious involvement, researchers led by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean M. Twenge found that millennials are the least religious generation of the last six decades, and possibly in the nation's history.

The researchers—including Ramya Sastry from SDSU, Julie J. Exline and Joshua B. Grubbs from Case Western Reserve University and W. Keith Campbell from the University of Georgia—analyzed data from 11.2 million respondents from four nationally representative surveys of U.S. ages 13 to 18 taken between 1966 and 2014.

Recent adolescents are less likely to say that religion is important in their lives, report less approval of religious organizations, and report being less spiritual and spending less time praying or meditating. The results were published this month in the journal PLOS One.

"Unlike previous studies, ours is able to show that ' lower is due to cultural change, not to millennials being young and unsettled," said Twenge, who is also the author of "Generation Me."

"Millennial adolescents are less religious than Boomers and GenX'ers were at the same age," Twenge continued. "We also looked at younger ages than the previous studies. More of today's adolescents are abandoning religion before they reach adulthood, with an increasing number not raised with religion at all."

Compared to the late 1970s, twice as many 12th graders and college students never attend religious services, and 75 percent more 12th graders say religion is "not important at all" in their lives. Compared to the early 1980s, twice as many and three times as many college students in the 2010s answered "none" when asked their religion.

Compared to the 1990s, 20 percent fewer described themselves as above average in spirituality, suggesting that religion has not been replaced with spirituality.

"These trends are part of a larger cultural context, a context that is often missing in polls about religion," Twenge said. "One context is rising individualism in U.S. culture. Individualism puts the self first, which doesn't always fit well with the commitment to the institution and other people that religion often requires. As Americans become more individualistic, it makes sense that fewer would commit to ."

Explore further: Changing attitudes about sex

More information: PLOS One, journals.plos.org/plosone/arti … journal.pone.0121454

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11 comments

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julianpenrod
1.7 / 5 (11) May 27, 2015
There is a point to be made about religion and accepting the presence of God. The two are not synonymous. Religion involves the running of the organization and its obtaining of money and maintaining of power. And that can involve corruption. How many know that, in Catholicism, to tell an ugly truth about a rich person is a form of lying called "detraction"?
God never created the first people sitting in pews. God, frankly, detests religion. He does want people to accept His presence and be guided by the truths He recommends.
The younger people are not "not religious", since they undertake their behavior without appealing to any philosophy. The common adherence to legalizing drugs; endorsing abortion on craven whim; demanding homosexuality is not a mental disorder; the insistence that blacks never do anything wrong, they advertises that their guiding principle is only the refusal to take responsibility for their actions.
viko_mx
1 / 5 (7) May 27, 2015
Secularism is the most widespread religion in modern times imposed by indocrination in school because no one ever prove to these days the origin of man without God and its development by the god of the happy chance. Physical laws known to man do not tolerate such ideas for magic emergence of life from non living matter and it evolutional development by random events. To believe that there is no God and His moral standard does not concern you, is again a religion but useless for the spiritual development of man.
ab3a
1.5 / 5 (8) May 27, 2015
In terms of classical religions, that may be true. However religious belief is still as strong as ever. In fact, many have suggested genetic links to such behavior.

So what replaces it? Celebrities worship, nature worship, social causes, and more. Those who call themselves atheists are really missing the point. We are all human. We have a need to build communities. The only question is what beliefs we build them around.
DirtySquirties
4.2 / 5 (5) May 27, 2015
Perfect article to draw out the religious nuts and the millennial bashers. I'm sure millennials will change their tune as soon as they read all the name-calling and baseless claims.
Returners
1.8 / 5 (5) May 27, 2015
One of my neighbor's kids thought the word "Jesus" was just another curse word. I'm serious.

But I can understand the confusion, with a president who refuses to make distinctions between one religion and another, for example even as Muslims' sole purpose in life appears to be to torment Christians to death.
Earthman
5 / 5 (4) May 28, 2015
One can only hope that this is indicative of a trend towards more rational behavior and away from belief in unsupported mythology.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) May 28, 2015
These trends are part of a larger cultural context, a context that is often missing in polls about religion," Twenge said. "One context is rising individualism in U.S. culture. Individualism puts the self first, which doesn't always fit well with the commitment to the institution and other people that religion often requires

Not sure this is a foregone conclusion. Maybe people are starting to understand that it's beneficial to commit time to other people without having to be told that it's a good idea?
rgw
5 / 5 (2) May 30, 2015
I have eight children from 27 to 45. I spent the most time with the five youngest and they were taught the truth. Organized religion, if small, is a dangerous cult. If large is a millenia spanning, sociopathic pursuit of mind control, emotional blackmail and material gain.

Peace Love Revolution
Not necessarily in that order
Nik_2213
not rated yet May 30, 2015
Perhaps their stance is related to the many, many shrill 'End of the World' apocalyptic pronouncements about first the Millenium, then 2012...

FWIW, our local supermarket was recently 'remaindering' a cheap 'period' thriller about the 2012 'prophecies'. Curiously, I remember the same book being sold as a near-evangelistic warning of 'The Last Days' circa ~2010.
PsycheOne
not rated yet May 31, 2015
As physics relentlessly destroys materialism, the next generation will need to come up with something else to believe in. It should be interesting to see just what that is. Neither science nor religion as we know them, I suspect.
rich_aquilina
5 / 5 (1) May 31, 2015
The sooner we learn that religion is all well and good as long as you understand it's all made up; the sooner all the people and ancient (and modern) art and accomplishments will stop being destroyed because of the fabrication called religion. The two greatest evils perptrated by 'man' are, money and religion (and the two, very often go hand in hand).

WE have REAL issues going on; our only home is being destroyed by our own hands, millions of people are starving and sick, etc. These are things that WE need to fix. There are no deities that are going to reach down from on high and fix any of this and the faster we stop diverting our precious time, thought, resources and energies away from fighting over whose fake deity is the one true deity, the better. I say, " KUDOS" to you Millenials!!! KUDOS to you!!!"

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