Friday News Roundup: Religion Among the Millenials

Are today’s twenty-somethings less religious than previous generations were at their age?

At first glance, yes. But a new study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life entitled, Religion Among the Millenials, reveals that even though America’s twenty-somethings are less likely to be affiliated with a particular religion, they are just as spiritual as their parents and grandparents were when they were their age.

The study draws on recent Pew surveys as well as older surveys by Gallup and others to compare the views of age groups at different times in recent history.

Here’s what you might have expected:

  • Millennials (those born after 1980 who came of age around the millenium) are significantly more likely than young adults in earlier generations to say they don’t identify with any religious group. 26% of Millenials cite no religious identity, compared with 20% of Generation X (born 1965-1980) at the same ages, and 13% for most Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) at those ages.

And here are some of the more surprising findings:

  • Young adults’ beliefs about life after death and the existence of heaven, hell and miracles closely resemble the beliefs of older people today.
  • 40% say religion is very important in their lives, similar to 39% of Boomers at the same ages.
  • 41% report praying daily, like 42% of Gen Xers as young adults.
  • Among Millennials who are affiliated with a religion, the intensity of their religious affiliation is as strong today as among previous generations when they were young.
  • 53% are "certain God exists;" 55% of Gen Xers were certain at the same ages

So what does all this mean?

Greg Smith, a senior researcher on the report said, "While growing numbers of people are unaffiliated, it’s not necessarily a sign that they’re committed secularists. We’re seeing among young people that there are ways of practicing faith and being religious outside of belonging to a religious organization or attending services."

Being a millenial who is mostly surrounded by millenials, I wasn’t that surprised by these findings. Though our parents and grandparents may assume we aren’t religious because we don’t affilate with one faith or regularly attend a traditional house of prayer, many of the twenty-somethings I know do indeed have a spiritual dimension to their lives. Perhaps its our notorious fear of commitment that keeps us from admitting allegiance to one religion or setting aside time for a religious service.

Which generation are you in? Do you match up with the findings?

Fox News, CNN and USA Today report. Beliefnet discusses how these trends affect churches and Reuters weighs in on what this means for other political issues.

Now onto other headlines from the week:

  • The federal agency that monitors religious freedom abroad has been accused of bias (Washington Post).
  • Though Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, it has a long history of religious diversity (New York Times).
  • A divorced father defies a court order by taking his 3-year-old daughter to a Catholic church (Chicago Tribune).
  • Hindus celebrate Kumbh Mela, arguably the world’s largest religious gathering, with a dip in the Ganges (Associated Press).

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