An expansive new study has revealed how religion is quickly losing out on the youngest generation of Americans. The recent study, headed by Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, showed that America’s emerging generation of adults is the least religious of all other generations in the last six decades.
“Unlike previous studies, ours is able to show that millennials’ lower religious involvement is due to cultural change, not to millennials being young and unsettled,” Twenge said.
In one of the largest studies ever conducted on the religious involvement of Americans, researchers from University of Georgia and Case Western Reserve University collaborated with Twenge and her team in California to assess data from four national surveys of adolescents in the United States aged between 13 and 18 years. The surveys, which were conducted from 1966 to 2014, include responses from approximately 11.2 million people.
According to Twenge, adolescents of the current generation see religion as less important, approve of fewer religious organizations and spend lesser time praying as compared to their predecessors when they were similarly aged. As opposed to their counterparts from the late 1970s, 75 percent more 12th graders in America believe that religion is not at all important in their lives.
Twenge cited a surge of individualism as the reason for atheism’s comparative appeal to a younger, more self-centric generation, while addressing the issue in her book titled Generation Me. In there, Twenge went on to offer academic rationale to support the notion that individuals born during the 1980s and 90s constitute an ‘entitlement generation’ that she believes is more confident, tolerant, ambitious and open-minded; but also more narcissistic, disengaged, anxious and distrustful.
“These trends are part of a larger cultural context, a context that is often missing in polls about religion,” Twenge said. “One context is rising individualism in U.S. culture. Individualism puts the self first, which doesn’t always fit well with the commitment to the institution and other people that religion often requires. As Americans become more individualistic, it makes sense that fewer would commit to religion.”
The study also made note of a growing acknowledgement that religion is not consistent with scientific teachings and cited that as one of the reasons that drives adolescents away from religion today.
“It is possible that debates about teaching creationism or intelligent design in U.S. schools, such as those in Kansas in 2005, pushed some young people away from religion,” Twenge and her colleagues wrote in the study.
The generational fall of religion’s appeal in the United States has been documented in several other studies, including one that was published last year by Allen Downey, computer scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Downey’s reasons as to why Americans are debunking religion and opting for atheism conflicts with Twenge’s, however. As pointed out in his study, Downey said unparalleled access to information made available by the internet is one of the major factors that affect an individual’s inclination towards religion. He argued that the internet could be as significant a variable as religious upbringing to influence a child’s spiritual beliefs in the long run.
Photo Credits: Godless Girl