Back in the hippy-dippy ’60s, we teens and ‘tweens used to say, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”
Then, the politically active young were wary of their seemingly stuck-in-the-mud elders.
Today, the tables have turned, and it’s the elders — especially conservative, God-fearing oldsters — who are suspicious of the increasingly heathen young.
So now the slogan of older, religious Americans may be, “Don’t trust anyone under 38,” which evokes a demographic that encompasses Millennials, young people born between 1981-1996, who are between 23 and 38 years old today.
The point is that Millennials, if only very slightly (51 percent), are the first generational cohort in American history that is majority nonreligious. In other words, Millennials are the least religious generation of U.S. young people ever. The 49 percent of Millennials who are Christian compares to 84 percent of American Christians who are in their mid-70s or older, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center, reported by Nicholas Kristof in his New York Times column titled, “We’re Less and Less a Christian Nation, and I Blame Some Blowhards.”
This rapidly worsening fact gives fervent Christian leaders hives, because what the young believe presumably will end up being what most of their kids ultimately believe, and their kids’ kids (as history and research indicate), unless some social catastrophe occurs that shakes up the calculus.
Growing secularism symbolized by this increasing divide has profound political implications, as well, because the nonreligious tend to be far more secular and progressive than their faithful elders — and, if they vote (which many don’t now), it could have far-reaching impact on U.S. public policies.
Millennials’ growing impact on religious demographics is spotlighted in a story published this week in the conservative news website Flipboard, titled “Poll: Millennials Become First Non-Christian Majority Generation In US History.”
Making matters worse for older, conservative Americans, the fading away of citizens from organized religion and faith in general is also rapidly surging, Flipboard notes, with only 65 percent of Americans now self-identifying as Christian (down 12 percentage points in a decade). Meanwhile, the proportion of atheists, agnostics, and those who identify as “nothing in particular” (“nones) jumped 17 points to 26 percent during the same period.
Millennial secularity is helping to drive those numbers, according to the new Pew Research Center poll. The poll reported that some 40 percent of Millennials identify as “nones,” and 10 percent as members of non-Christian faiths.
Faith appears to be somewhat faint even for those Millennials who identify as religious, with about a third saying they attend church services only once or twice a month and 64 percent worshipping but a few times annually or less often. Twenty-two percent avoid religious services altogether.
It’s part of a national trend growing more evident by the day.
To counter this demographic trend the current Donald Trump administration in Washington, D.C., has initiated a campaign to discredit “secularism,” which is embraced by Millennials as well as tens of millions of other Americans. Together, nonreligious citizens comprise roughly a quarter of the population, including atheists, agnostics and the religiously apathetic.
“The U.S. is steadily becoming less Christian and less religiously observant,” the Pew study concluded.
U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr railed against the nonreligious in a recent official speech at Notre Dame University’s law school.
“The problem is not that religion is being forced on others,” Barr proclaimed in his speech. “The problem is that irreligion is being forced; secular values are being forced on people of faith.”
In fact, irreligion is not being forced on anyone; secularists are trying to prevent the evangelical faithful from forcing their Christianity on everyone in the public square — in faith-driven government policy and public-school curricula, in divine inscriptions on American money, and in godly verses on anthems and pledges children are expected to recite, etc. Then nonreligious are pushing back against improper religious encroachment on American public life because the Constitution authorizes it, despite “originalists” and evangelicals refusing to acknowledge the fundamental requirement of church-state separation.
But all this evangelical gnashing of teeth and tearing at breasts may be pointless in the long run, as America grows less and less faithful in a natural progression toward greater secularity — a process Western Europe has nearly completed.
The handwriting appears to be on the wall.
The days are numbered — and manifestly few — for turning America into a Christian theocracy.
And the young are leading the charge in establishing a more secular national paradigm.
Kristof contends evangelicals aren’t helping themselves to stay relevant in this transformation by complaining that “Christians and Christianity are mocked, belittled, smeared and attacked,” as stated in a Fox News website essay titled, “How Long Will I Be Allowed to Remain a Christian?”
“This mockery of Christians is, as I’ve written many times, both real and wrong,” Kristof wrote. “But a far bigger threat to the ‘brand’ of Christianity comes, I think, from religious blowhards who have entangled faith with bigotry, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. For some young people, Christianity is associated less with love than with hate.”
That doesn’t sound much like a winning strategy with Millennials, does it?