05 January 2016

Religion and Millennials Addendum

As I noted in the close of last Friday’s blog post, Religion and Science, there’s been a significant trend away from religion, particularly by younger adults, the Millennial generation--born after 1980 and the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.  
I left academia before the Millennials arrived and never had a chance to lecture to laptop computers. (Photo from multiple websites)

Pew Research Center Survey

The Pew Research Center’s multigenerational survey of Americans, conducted in 2014 and cited in last Friday’s post, found that Millennials are less likely than all older generations to feel religion is very important in their lives, pray at least daily, attend religious services at least weekly, believe in heaven and have an absolutely certain belief in God.

Religious differences by generation, 2014. (From Pew Research Center survey, see P.S.)
But when it comes to spiritual practices, Millennials aren’t far off from older generations. The Pew survey found little generational difference in the percentages of those who, at least weekly, feel a sense of wonder about the universe, feel a sense of gratitude or thankfulness and think about the meaning and purpose of life.

Millennials did stand out as being the least likely generation to feel, at least weekly, a sense of spiritual peace and well-being.

Research Study of Millennials

A recent study of American Millennials by collaborating researchers from San Diego State, Case Western Reserve and Georgia universities amplifies the Pew survey results. The research team analyzed four online nationally representative survey datasets, which, together, included data on 11.2 million 8th, 10th and 12th graders and entering college students as far back as 1966.

Reaching back in time, allowed the researchers to establish that today’s Millennials are significantly less religious than Boomers and Generation X were at the same age, not only at the time of the latest survey, 2014. Although the majority of Millennials are religiously involved, they are the least religious generation in decades.

Key Research Study Findings

Most Millennials report a religious affiliation, yet three times as many college students (vs. late 1960s), twice as many 12th graders (vs. 1960s-70s), and over 50% more 10th graders and nearly 40% more 8th graders (vs. 1991-94) report no affiliation.

Most grade-schoolers say that religion is at least somewhat important in their lives, yet there’s been a significant increase in those saying it’s not important. Much of the increase occurred between 2000 and 2013, when those saying religion was not important increased 57% for 12th graders, 43% for 10th graders and 36% for 8th graders.

The Pew survey found Millennials are comparable to older generations in spirituality, yet even that’s changed over time. Today’s entering college students are less likely to consider themselves above average in spirituality and less likely to pray or meditate, suggesting Millennials are less spiritual than were their predecessors.

The decline in religious orientation is most pronounced among Whites, lower socioeconomic status individuals, females, Northeasterners and political liberals; it is very small among Blacks and non-existent among political conservatives. Notable factors are that religious affiliation is lower in years with more income inequality, higher median family income, higher materialism, more positive self-views and lower social support.

In summary, while the majority of Millennials are religious, a growing minority seem to embrace secularism, with the change extending to spirituality and the importance of religion in their lives.


Pew Research Center’s 2015 Religious Landscape Study and report on Millennials:
Study of Millennials in PLOS One journal and article on study on Science Daily website:

1 comment:

  1. I think this is because of the condescending self righteousness, ."you're going to hell if you don't believe my way" of the religious right that has turned the millennials away from traditional religion....as it should. It's time for a broader more inclusive kinder view of all humanity's meaning and connection with each other and the earth, our home.