New Poll Shows That 1 in 3 Young Jewish Americans Are Not Religious

A new survey on Jewish Americans released just now by the Pew Research Center shows what we’ve come to expect from these reports: They are becoming less religious overall, with Millennial Jews even less religious than their older counterparts:

A Pew Research reanalysis of the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey suggests that at that time, 93% of Jews in that study were Jews by religion and 7% were Jews of no religion (after some adjustments to make the NJPS and Pew Research categories as similar as possible). In the new Pew Research survey, 78% of Jews are Jews by religion, and fully 22% are Jews of no religion (including 6% who are atheist, 4% who are agnostic and 12% whose religion is “nothing in particular”). Though the two studies employed different question wording and methodologies and are thus not directly comparable, the magnitude of these differences suggests that Jews of no religion have grown as a share of the Jewish population and the overall U.S. public. The new Pew Research survey finds that approximately 0.5% of U.S. adults — about 1.2 million people — are Jews of no religion.

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times highlights this change in her report and brings up another relevant point: Non-religious Jews aren’t passing down their religious traditions to their children, meaning the trend is likely to continue:

… the percentage of “Jews of no religion” has grown with each successive generation, peaking with the millennials (those born after 1980), of whom 32 percent say they have no religion.

“It’s very stark,” Alan Cooperman, deputy director of the Pew religion project, said in an interview. “Older Jews are Jews by religion. Younger Jews are Jews of no religion.”

But Jews without religion tend not to raise their children Jewish, so this secular trend has serious consequences for what Jewish leaders call “Jewish continuity.” Of the “Jews of no religion” who have children at home, two-thirds are not raising their children Jewish in any way. This is in contrast to the “Jews with religion,” of whom 93 percent said they are raising their children to have a Jewish identity.

What we’re seeing more than anything else is a rise in secular Judaism as opposed to religious Judaism. It’s the non-religious traditions that are being passed down to the next generation, if that.

The report also shows a rise in Jews who marry non-Jews, another sign that religious faith is taking a backseat to other qualities.

The strangest finding, though, may be just how many Jewish people believe that you can be a Jew while believing that Jesus was the Messiah…

I would jokingly say 34% of Jews didn’t go to Hebrew school… but I don’t think that’s a joke.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.