Why Young People Are Less Religious

Adam Lee tries to explain why young people are less religious and much more likely to be non-believers than earlier generations:

Over the last few decades, society in general, and young people in particular, have become increasingly tolerant of gays and other minorities. For the most part, this is a predictable result of familiarity: people who’ve grown up in an increasingly multicultural society see less problem with interracial relationships (89% of Generation Nexters approve of interracial marriage, compared to 70% of older age groups) and same-sex marriage (47% in favor among Nexters, compared to 30% in older groups). When it comes to issues like whether gays and lesbians should be protected from job discrimination or allowed to adopt, the age gap in support is even more dramatic (71% vs. 59% and 61% vs. 44%, respectively).

He continues:

But while American society is moving forward on all these fronts, many churches not only refuse to go along, they’re actively moving backward. Most large Christian sects, both Catholic and Protestant, have made fighting against gay rights and women’s rights their all-consuming crusade. And young people have gotten this message loud and clear: polls find that the most common impressions of Christianity are that it’s hostile, judgmental and hypocritical. In particular, an incredible 91% of young non-Christians say that Christianity is “anti-homosexual“, and significant majorities say that Christianity treats being gay as a bigger sin than anything else. (When right-wing politicians thunder that same-sex marriage is worse than terrorism, it’s not hard to see where people have gotten this impression.)

On other social issues as well, the gap between Gen Nexters and the church looms increasingly wide. Younger folks favor full access to the morning-after pill by a larger margin than older generations (59% vs. 46%). They reject the notion that women should return to “traditional roles” — already a minority position, but they disagree with it even more strongly than others. And they’re by far the least likely of all age groups to say that they have “old-fashioned” values about family and marriage (67% say this, as compared to 85% of other age groups).

In a society that’s increasingly tolerant and enlightened, the big churches remain stubbornly entrenched in the past, clinging to medieval dogmas about gay people and women, presuming to lecture their members about how they should vote, whom they should love, how they should live. It’s no surprise that people who’ve grown up in this tolerant age find it absurd when they’re told that their family and friends don’t deserve civil rights, and it’s even less of a surprise that, when they’re told they must believe this to be good Christians, they simply walk away. This trend is reflected in the steadily rising percentages of Americans who say that religion is “old-fashioned and out of date” and can’t speak to today’s social problems.

And all of this is true. But has it ever not been that way? It’s not as if the churches just suddenly became intransigent in the face of social change; that has always been the case. I am preparing a TED-type presentation for a forum in October that will argue that traditional, conservative Christianity has been standing against the tide of progress in this country since even before the country officially existed.

It was conservative Christian churches who were opposed to the Constitution, on the grounds that it forbid religious tests and endorsed religious freedom. It was the same institutions that were in support of slavery, opposed to women’s suffrage, opposed to ending the Jim Crow laws and giving equality to those of other races. This dynamic is a very old one, yet those churches continue to have adherents. They do this, of course, by evolving.

Despite the constant claims that Christianity (and all other religions, of course) advocates Timeless, Eternal Truth, the church evolves just like every other institution evolves. Though the church stood foursquare against Enlightenment ideals like individual rights and equality for centuries, once those ideals became dominant they were simply absorbed, relatively seamlessly, into the old traditions. Doctrines were altered, traditions overthrown, scriptures reinterpreted — and all with little acknowledgment that anything had ever changed.

We can see this with the predominant conservative Christian view of the Constitution. During the ratification debates and in the early days after it was passed, the old guard raved about the “godless Constitution” and how it would bring down God’s wrath upon us all for failing to acknowledge our reliance upon him. Many times over the course of the first 100 years of this country, amendments were offered to fix that primary defect by adding language to the Constitution declaring our fealty to God. All of them failed.

And then over a period of time, the argument reversed itself. Suddenly “scholars” began to “discover” — that is, invent — the idea that the Constitution was written to establish a Christian Nation all along. The Constitution suddenly went from being an infidel plot to overthrow the history of Christian covenants to being a Godly document that intended the de facto establishment of Christianity. Some Christian scholars, like reconstructionist Gary North, didn’t get the memo and continue to stick to the old memes.

Jerry Coyne adds his two cents to the discussion:

So much for the mantra that “religion is here to stay,” a claim that I always find annoying—and wrong in light of the dramatic decline of religion in much of Europe over the last two centuries. If religion does stay, it will increasingly be in a less virulent form that doesn’t oppress women or gays, or intrude into the sexual lives of consenting adults. And we can count that as a victory. (This, of course, assumes that the spread of intolerant forms of Islam doesn’t overcome this trend.)

I do think religion is here to stay, despite recent trends, but I also agree that religion will continue to evolve and become less virulent. Christianity has been undergoing that process since the Enlightenment; Islam is just now beginning it. The battles between modernism and traditional religion have nearly always been won by modernism and I have no doubt that will continue to be so. But that doesn’t mean religion is going to go away; I don’t think it is. It means religion is going to continue to be humanized. And this is a good thing, even if it’s not the best possible alternative we can think of.

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  • ash bell

    Only that devisiveness is a necessary feature of a religion. I think it will move more and more into the realm of vague buffet-style spiritualty that we already see in the new age “religions”

  • Jim

    But… age cohorts are dynamic things, and you didn’t include any statistics on how feelings on religion change over time. This generation may be less religious than their parents, but their parents may have been less religious in their youth as well. Many people who don’t consider themselves religious as youths return to organized religion when they’ve started a family, have gotten married, need community life, or suffer a personal tragedy. All these happen when one gets older. Are there any numbers on that, some sort of reintegration percentage? I think THAT number will be the interesting to compare between generations.


  • Taz

    conservative Christianity has been standing against the tide of progress in this country since even before the country officially existed

    But are usually in favor of war. What’s wrong with that picture?

  • Wes

    I actually agree with what PZ Myers was quoted saying in “Expelled” — I’d like to see religion become like knitting: A harmless pass-time that some people engage in if it suits them, but doesn’t impose on anybody else. People treated that quote like PZ was being so militant, but it seems perfectly reasonable to me.

    I don’t want to eliminate religion entirely. I just don’t want it fucking people’s lives up, corrupting our political process, and spreading bigotry. If religion just had the status of “something some people like to do”, I’d be fine with it.

    I do think that the regressive positions of the church alienate young people, but those young people will be old some day, and many of them gravitate back to the church. I wouldn’t see this particular trend as a sign of the coming end of religion. Although I do think it’s a sign that religion in America will gradually become more like religion in Europe, where people take it less seriously.

  • oldebabe


    You are probably right, that religion will not go away, but ISTM that the trends indicate that it will eventually become like astrology, i.e. some people will still enjoy the comfort of just believing, more-or-less, off and on, and as it may apply specifically to them, especially if it loses the vileness and those less-than-sane ideas.

  • anon

    How is 71% vs. 59% and 61% vs. 44% “even more dramatic” than 47% vs. 30%?

  • Akira MacKenzie

    That is, until they make the mistake of getting married and crapping out the requist 2.5 kids our culture expects us provide to help contribute to overpopulation. Then their lives become devoted to protecting their precious little spawn and “the family” from evey action, object, person, word or thought that they perceive to be a threat to them. Of course, one of the primary organizations that claimto work to protect our brats from the “evils” of the world, as well as providing the “community” and “social structure” we’re told that we need, are the churches. You’ll be surprised who even a “tolerant” youngster of today can become a homophobic bigot after they’ve been convinced that their little genital squeezing’s life and “soul” are imperiled by the pressense of gays and lesbians.

    And it gets better as they get older. Their memories crystalize and they loose their ability to think fluidly. They become bitter and spiteful about the world and the younger generations who are obviously messing things up with their new ideas. Their bodies start to fail them. Pain is a daily companion and that eternal dinner date with Reaper is not to far away. It’s time to crank the religiosity to 11 in order to save America from those Godless whipper-snappers and score some Brownie Points with the Invisible Sky Tyrant before they croak.

    We’re screwed.

  • As as been stressed many times, the US is an anomaly in the western world in this regard. Canada and virtually all of Europe are already very secular. The battles of separation of church and state and equal rights have already been fought. That is not to say religion has disappeared, it most certainly has not, but it holds much less sway in the political arena than it does in the US.

    Eventually the US will catch up, much as it did with slavery and segregation.

  • penn

    I think some types of religion or something very close to religion will be with us always, but I do think traditional religion is in the beginnings of a death spiral. The role of religion will continue to decrease in the developed world and that will eventually start to happen in the developing world as globalization and educational opportunities lead people away from the most oppressive forms of religion. I think the religious landscape will be significantly different in 30 years than it is today. The growth of Islam and Mormonism will be interesting to watch, and could further complicate the issue.

  • Fifth Dentist

    Our librul indoctrination camps are working, da. High fives, comrades.

    We have thwarted stupid moose and squirrel.

  • scienceavenger

    While these trends have been around for a long time as Ed notes, the difference now is the speed with which information and technology changes and moves, and the accessibility everyone has to it. There is a reason churches worked so hard for so long to control information. They knew it was crucial to their survival. Now the churches have to move faster and more dramatically to keep up with the demands of newer members who have been on the internet and doubt the preacher’s old-school dissemblings.

    Will religion go away completely because of this? No. But it will, as others have noted, find itself more and more relegated to the status of quaint comfy thoughts a la astrology, and less and less the sort of thing reasonable people use to bolster their views on politics and other public issues. The seeming rise of the arch-religious recently is the reaction of a drowning man making one last lunge for the shore before all his energy is spent.

  • Scott Hanley

    I expect many of these hard-line anti-gay, anti-welfare, anti-Other religionists grew up thinking, as I did, how much more enlightened their church was than their grandparents’. In my youth, we rolled our eyes at the way older Christians disparaged dancing and rock ‘n’ roll, or how some denominational summer camps would make girls wear long skirts even while playing softball. What fuddie-duddies!

    Nowadays pop-rock has all but replaced the old hymns in evangelical churches. Similarly, when today’s youth return to the church, I don’t expect them to change their minds about gay rights. But they’ll find some other form of cultural evolution that they didn’t grow up with, and they’ll stand against that, demanding that the world stop changing around them. Perhaps less virulently than today, since today’s Christians are more virulent than usual, but I’d be surprised if, when they’ve reached middle age, today’s tolerant youth allow themselves to be dragged into the future without a fuss.

  • raven

    Some form of religion may be around but it might not be anything recognizable as today’s xianity.

    Gods and religions come and go. They even die. Zeus, Thor, Odin, Marduk, Isis, and Osiris, all have ended up on the scrapheap of history. Yahweh is well on his way as well.

    The up and coming god is Deos, the one hiding behind the Big Bang.

    The remnants of the fundies will probably end up like the FLDS. Weird cults in out of the way places, torturing their women and children, and widely regarded as social problems.

  • Francisco Bacopa

    Religion seems to be like Myxamatosis in Australia, virulent at first, and then becominging less so even as the rabbit populations there became more resistant.

    Consider a virulent strain, like the Quiverfull movement. Sure, it’s good at spreading over short distances, but are Quiverfull kids going to grow up and control business and entertainment?

    Religions become moderate and people become more resistant to the weirder strains.

    Adam Smith made a similar point back in the late 1700s. He said that religious freedom and competition would moderate religions such that they would not become a threat to the continuity of secular state power.

  • tacitus

    I get the sense that the USA is about a generation of two behind UK in its secularization. When I was in high school in the UK, many parents still took or sent their children to church and/or sunday school, even if they weren’t particularly religious because it was the “right thing to do” to expose their kids to the traditions of Christianity. But the kids weren’t buying it since they could recognize the lack of conviction in their parents’ attitude.

    These days, almost nobody does that any more in the UK, and many churches are almost completely devoid of children. Many still adhere to some semblance of religious belief, but it’s not strong enough to see them wanting to indoctrinate their kids with it.

    I get the sense that what was happening in the UK 30 years ago is happening now. Many of my American friends are bringing up kids now, and most of them–who almost never went to church before they had kids–now take their children to church on Sundays. One couple that did this already has kids in college and as far as I know, once the kids were confirmed, they pretty much stopped going (and they are not the rebellious type) and now they are off to college, church is simply not on the agenda.

    Of course, the variables are different — the UK never had such a politically active virulent strain of right-wing Christianity to deal with, and the activism does help to gin up emotions and support for their causes, and that will probably help sustain a larger rump than in other countries, but I agree that the we are likely to be at or near the zenith of the power of religious right.

    I said that to the guys over at Talk 2 Action about a year or so ago, and was roundly criticized for it — they don’t believe the religious right is or will be on the wane. What I tried to point out was that even if I am right, the religious right isn’t going to lose all its power and influence overnight, and they will cause great mischief in the USA for years to come, but I still think that in 20 or 30 years we will look back at the first decade of the 21st century as the zenith of the religious conservative movement.

    The key thing about young people being less religious is that they will stay that way as they get older. Religious views, on the whole, tend to be set in stone as each generation reaches their twenties. (Surveys of religious beliefs over the last 50 years confirms that.) And unless something dramatic happens, the next generation will be even less religious.

    It’s a process, but it’s happening, and I don’t believe there is much the religious right can do to stop it.

  • rork

    In 1978, I was about 20, and I knew these things about Americans:

    We soon would all be told and accept as obvious that humans are related to oak trees – literally, by common descent. We’d all learn anthropology which would make it obvious that humans had vastly different religions (most people still don’t know just how different), and that they are obviously human inventions. Learning about science would make it plausible that there was no need for extranatural explanations of anything. We’d learn philosophy enough so that gods would be revealed as pretty absurd, or at least an answer in search of a question. Since very good education would be nearly universal, religion as most commonly seen then (though perhaps not some very esoteric beliefs) would be impossible by the year 2000. After all, many educated folks I knew had no hint of faith, and no student could possibly get through a serious education with their god-beliefs intact – the professors would see to that. Various flavors of idiotic discrimination and war would have vanished years before, naturally.

    I do not mean to be too pessimistic now, but do expect some continuing harsh days.

  • SteveInMI

    @Ed – I’m intrigued by your mention of a Christian resistance to the USA’s secular Constitution. I’ve heard of there having been proto-fundamentalist backlash in the 18th century, but I have little to support my understanding/assumption. Can you or the commenters recommend any good material on this subject?


  • Joe

    Wow. The commenters here are a lot more optimistic than I. I hope they are right and that religion will become more moderate. Tennyson or somebody said that young people cannot hold the same beliefs as their grandparents (sorry I can’t find the quote), and I agree that the churches have changed their stances somewhat. But the church I attended as a kid is still holding to a literal interpretation of the bible and probably always will. Also, it seems to me that xianity and several other religions exist in order to control women and their sex lives and maintain the dominance of men. I don’t see that changing or them allowing women to hold positions of authority.

  • lofgren

    The battles between modernism and traditional religion have nearly always been won by modernism and I have no doubt that will continue to be so. But that doesn’t mean religion is going to go away; I don’t think it is. It means religion is going to continue to be humanized.

    This is just the bias of the times. The idea of “progress” (as in all of humanity gradually moving inexorably forward, unstoppable, ever improving despite minor temporary lapses) is a relatively new one to the world, and definitely unproven compared to religion, one of its major opponents, which has for all of recorded time gradually strangled anything we might retroactively label as “progress” and thrown us backward into dark ages, which have a habit of lasting much longer than any preceding period that might have been called more enlightened. The Catholic church has been tested by not quite two millennia of modernists challenging them. We got to keep Galileo’s heresies even if the man himself was lost, but how many similar insights were destroyed in the thousand years before that? If you think I’m being too Eurocentric, pick your continent or ancient culture of choice. They’ve all had their periods of modernity – i.e. values we share and thus feel as though we can infer their perspective on the world – inevitably followed by long stretches of stagnation or decline. Gods do die, but so do civilizations, and ours is basically an upstart on that scale.

    I agree that things are different now. The speed and availability of information, travel, and global economy means that our civilization is the first global one. The newest imports from Japan are not so oriental that we imagine their creators must have magical powers. Cartographers are not allowed to just draw dragons at the edge of the map and stop the globe wherever they run out of paper.

    But to say that modernity “always” beats religion is a little like saying that England has “never” been conquered by Germans and then writing in itty bitty parentheses (1900-2011). OK, it’s true. But so what? Narrow your scope enough and you can say that anything is always or never true. But then it is equally true to say that oppression and repression “always” come back eventually.

    I don’t believe that there are any truly malevolent, lawful evil clerics behind the stances of “Big Religion.” Even the pope probably means well. But if there are any Bond-style villains out there secretly propagating religious fundamentalism from their lair on a skull-shaped island, I don’t think they are too worried right now. There are more and more powerful means of exploration available to the youngest generation, so of course they are wandering farther afield. They might be old by then, but they will eventually go home again. Going home is so much easier than setting out ever was in the first place. Whether you consider a range of one generation, or one century, or five centuries, you’re not even thinking on a timeline that the evil religious overlords can be bothered to concern themselves with. If we keep this up for another couple of centuries, I might start to have a little faith that progress will always thwart fundamentalism.

  • anandine

    I think religion is here to stay because I think religiosity or non-religiosity is biological in the brain. We might find meds to cure it, but it seems to be one of the normal ways people feel.

  • eric

    Jim: But… age cohorts are dynamic things, and you didn’t include any statistics on how feelings on religion change over time. This generation may be less religious than their parents, but their parents may have been less religious in their youth as well.

    I think the PEW surveys do try and analyze for aging, if you’re interested you might look at the results. IIRC, the % of unaffiated (which includes atheists and agnostics) does drop off with age. So we would expect the big ‘bump’ of unaffiliates we see now to go down as they age. But it would still be big by comparison with historical numbers. 🙂

    The age cohort analysis is complicated by the fact that men are much more likely to claim unaffiliated status,* and they/we die earlier. So the lower “% unaffiliated” in higher age groups is part conversion, part male die off, and the PEW analysis doesn’t really say how much much each of these factors contributes.

    *This is an observation from the 2008 survey, not an editorial comment.

  • eric

    Jim, found the numbers from the 2008 survey. Here’s the population % of unaffiliated by age group:

    18-29 = 25

    30-39 = 19

    40-49 = 15

    50-59 = 14

    60-69 = 10

    70+ = 8

    That is from the PEW 2008 religious landscape survey, part 1, page 37.

  • Android B

    I’d like to mention one more possible reason that young people are less religious now that hasn’t really been touched on. Many atheists argue, quite correctly, that religious beliefs lack any evidentiary basis and can therefore be disregarded as baseless speculation. Furthermore, many of the truth-claims religions make have been soundly rejected by scienfic inquiry.

    This is especially important in relation to young people now because of the amazing rate at which technologcally is driving scientific advancement. As technology has rapidly developed and science has discovered more and more about our universe in recent years, the evidence that religion is an unnecessary and false anachronism has continued to mount. Young people are more willing to embrace technological advancements, so it stands to reason that such advancements will have more of an effect on what they believe.

    As technology-aided science continues to rapidly fill in the gaps in scientific understanding, the deities who live in those will gaps continue to shrink.

  • Sastra

    I once read an article which argued that one of the major factors in the growth of the non-religious was the changing demographics of the early 20th century: people moved from the church-centered rural areas to the secular cities. As a consequence, a not-negligible number of children were un-churched. Statistically, people tend to raise their children as they were raised. It proceeded geometrically from there.

    I was raised without religion; when I had kids I also raised them without religion. In addition to the small problem of not actually believing any of the doctrines, the whole idea of church and Sunday School seemed a bit weird and unnatural to me. Why? Children ought to be left to make up their minds as adults, when they could reason about religious tenets from a neutral and objective standpoint and think more maturely. Anything else seemed oddly strained and … abnormal.

    Yes, people do convert both ways. But you can’t “return” to where you didn’t come from.

  • tacitus


    I think the PEW surveys do try and analyze for aging, if you’re interested you might look at the results. IIRC, the % of unaffiated (which includes atheists and agnostics) does drop off with age. So we would expect the big ‘bump’ of unaffiliates we see now to go down as they age. But it would still be big by comparison with historical numbers. 🙂

    That’s incorrect, I don’t have the numbers to hand, but surveys of religious belief spread out over the last several decades quite clearly show that the number of non-believers per a generation holds steady as they age, and tends to be set in stone once they reach their twenties. Thus if the most recent crop of American adults to reach their twenties has around 30% who are non-religious/unaffiliated, that will likely be the case for that generation from now until they reach retirement age and beyond, if history is any guide.

    I think the only way the trend is reversed is if there is some existential crisis that completely upends the American way of life — a killer pandemic, outbreak of nuclear war, or something like that. Absent that, I think the drift toward non-belief continues — albeit slower than in other Western nations.

  • steve oberski

    @Akira MacKenzie

    Quite the irrepressible optimist, not that I disagree with you.

  • laurentweppe

    That is not to say religion has disappeared [in Europe], it most certainly has not, but it holds much less sway in the political arena than it does in the US.

    Of course, one of the reason is that the far right extremists themselves have become a lot more secular: by that I mean that people with the same political agenda than the american fundies still exist in Europe, but since their leaders use a lot less religiously themed dog-whistles, the local far-rightist often do not try to pretend that they are on God’s payroll, and have even been reusing the secularist jargon to disguise their real intents for a couple of decades. Europe is actually a big evidence that weakening organized religion does not magically bring enlightened rainbows and lolipops: a lot of what would have been fundies 50 or 100 years ago have evolved by shedding their religious skin and adopting a new appareance and are still very busy trying to sabotage european democracies.

  • coragyps

    Mark Twain weighed in on this a few years back:

    “The Christian Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same; but the medical practice changes. For eighteen hundred years these changes were slight – scarcely noticeable. The practice was allopathic – allopathic in its rudest and crudest form.”

    From Bible Teaching and Religious Practice.

    But yes, religion will stay around for a long, long time.

  • People who reject religions because they see the religions as immoral are not likely to become atheists. While some of them might, many will instead adopt other religions, or decide that they are “spiritual” or the like. In fact, there’s a lot of demographic difference between atheists and agnostics (who look pretty similar) and people who self-identify as “no religion” or put down “none”. For example, the same Pew study which showed that atheists and agnostics in the US were most knowledgeable about religious questions also showed that people with no religion were about as bad as the general population, and by some metrics even worse.

    This is another reason to bet on Ed rather than Jerry’s view of what the religious landscape will look like in the future.

  • Scott F

    The battles between modernism and traditional religion have nearly always been won by modernism and I have no doubt that will continue to be so.

    Well, that used to be true until recently. In the last 30 to 40 years, the “modernist” or “liberal” main stream religions have been waxing, while the “conservative” or “fundamentalist” religions have been waning. Witness Jimmy Carter leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. There seems to be a far, far higher percentage of people in the U.S. today that believe in an inerrant Bible than existed 100 or even 50 years ago.

    So, maybe in the long run modernity will win out, but the fundamentalist churches in the US appear to be growing, and are growing more virulent as time goes on.

  • Michael Heath

    Scott F:

    There seems to be a far, far higher percentage of people in the U.S. today that believe in an inerrant Bible than existed 100 or even 50 years ago.

    That’s not true according to Gallup poll results between 1977 and this year. Instead the rate of literalists/inerrantists has dropped 21%. And while part of those has increased the number of Americans who believe the Bible is inspired by God, the rate of those who instead think/believe the Bible is a book of fables, history, and legends has increased 30%. Lastly the rate of those who believe the Bible is either literally true or inspired of God has dropped 5%.

  • Pi Guy

    How is 71% vs. 59% and 61% vs. 44% “even more dramatic” than 47% vs. 30%?

    They’re using the Reverse-Stapleford Scoring System wherein the lowest score wins. I guess that makes it kinda like golf.

  • Pi Guy

    Reverse-Stableford Scoring System.

    Oh, look – there’s a Preview button… *sigh*

  • MollyNYC

    Another factor that Lee doesn’t touch on is that in the last decade or so, the idea that religion in and of itself, is a good thing, a benign, harmless and well-meaning force that offers a context for decent behavior while helping individuals with their problems, has suffered rather serious challenges.

    Anyone (and not necessarily young people) can point to incidents wherein religion has offered cover for sexual or other predators (Catholic priests come to mind, but they’re scarcely the only religion in which pastors abuse congregants); has led adherents to acts of appalling cruelty (9/11; the forced-birth movement); has damaged members’ lives (all those seriously ill people [or their parents] who blow off medical treatment for prayer); or is so unrealistic (particularly w/r/t sexual activity) that even its most vocal advocates are revealed as hypocrites.

    While, in the past, individuals might know of, e.g., one priest who was sleeping with his housekeeper, or one imam with a drinking problem, or a few mean and clearly batty people who used religion to rationalize their worst behavior–which could be written off as isolated incidents, we now all know of hundreds of such things–enough to notice an ugly pattern that belies the “religion is good” meme.

    I don’t judge people who want to believe; it’s clearly a great comfort to those who can. But at a certain point, you know the things you know, and you can’t unknow them. After seeing the man behind the curtain, most people can no longer believe in the wizard, even if they want to.

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