Young Americans remain believers

The Pew Research Center has a new report out, entitled “Religion Among the Millennials: Less Religiously Active Than Older Americans, But Fairly Traditional In Other Ways.”

Short summary: the younger generation of Americans are weaker in their institutional religious affiliations, though the vast majority is still tied to a religion. Where supernatural beliefs are concerned, however, most young Americans remain thorough believers, even when not attached to older institutional forms. There is a slightly increased percentage of outright nonbelievers, and their part of the population is likely to remain stable rather than drifting into churches as they age.

Media spin: “Young Americans less religious than their parents (CNN), or “Study on religion finds young adults less affiliated but not less believing” (LA Times).

My take: secularist arguments that the US is following Europe in the sense of its population becoming less religious are not supported by the Pew report. It may, somehow, be true. (There may be even something buried in the data somewhere; I’m not a social scientist, after all.) Maybe there is something to the somewhat larger nonbelieving population. But the notion that the US is secularizing smacks of wishful thinking.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11815695119406091177 Interested

    I'm really sorry to hear that. I had believed that the numbers were increasing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Thanks for this information.

    Taner Edis said:
    "Where supernatural beliefs are concerned, however, most young Americans remain thorough believers, even when not attached to older institutional forms."

    This comment is supported by the comments and data on page 16 of the report: "On still other measures of religious belief, there are few differences in the beliefs of young people
    compared with their elders today. Adults under 30, for instance, are just as likely as older adults
    to believe in life after death (75% vs. 74%), heaven (74% each), hell (62% vs. 59%) and miracles
    (78% vs. 79%)."

    But there was one ray of hope that you did not mention, concerning % who say they believe in God, with no doubts (p.13):

    Greatest (born before 1928): 71%
    Silent (born 1928-1945): 68%
    Boomer (born 1946-1964): 65%
    Gen X (born 1965-1980): 61%
    Millennial (born 1980 or later): 53%

    That is a very encouraging trend.


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