I am an atypical millennial (people born between 1981-1996). For several reasons I fall in near perfect alignment with the millennial archetype, except for one. I am apart of the minority of millennials who actively practices his faith. In fact, less than one third of millennials go to church/a religious gathering on a regular basis.
In and out of my circles, it is becoming increasingly more common for one to hear sayings like: “I’m not religious I’m spiritual”, or “I believe that a god exists, I just do not know the details”. Statistically, the two most popular religions among millennials are Christianity (56%), and Unaffiliated/ Nonreligious (36%). As a millennial who just so happens to be a Christian, I thought this would be a good topic to explore: Why does my generation not like Christianity?
Disclaimer: The following information in this section is not specifically associated to Christianity, but rather, serves as the canvas on which that perspective will be painted.
In a study done by the American Enterprise Institute, it was found that 19% of millennials were raised without religion, and 24% of those that were, eventually left the religion. It was also found that they [millennials] are increasingly more likely to have a spouse who is not religious (78%); And they believe that their kids would not benefit from a religious upbringing (53%). Religion as a familial practice is something that has been on a generational decline since Gen Xers; the affects of which we are now seeing proliferate through my generation.
Historically, religious belief/practice has its own ebb and flow. Children are raised in a religious household, become teenagers/young adults and descend from their religious upbringing, and eventually get married and have kids, and return to their religious foundation. As it applies to the millennial generation, in addition to growing up in less religious households, it should be unsurprising that only about a third of millennials actively participated in religious activities (going to church, praying before a meal, or attending Sunday school/receiving some sort of religious education).
Pew Research Center suggests that people raised without a religion are less likely to look for one as they get older. This means, that given the trends of my generation (including the fact that we are less likely to get married), the trend for later life religiosity will be drastically askew from the historical norm.
Millennials Identify with Spirituality
Even though the odds are stacked against us, most millennials identify as recognizing the existence of god. 50% say they absolutely believe in the existence of god, 21% say they are fairly certain, and 9% say they are not that certain. Only 17% absolutely do not believe in god. 68% of millennials believe in heaven, and 56% believe in hell.
The concept of religion is not foreign to millennials, it is the practice and understanding of it that is.
46% of millennials do not believe that someone needs a god to have good morals, and that common sense is a sufficient moral barometer. 44% believe that the bible specifically, is not the word of God. Ironically enough, 53% of millennials do not even read the bible. 62% almost never pray, and 72% hardly ever go to church.
The Presumptive Issue with Christianity
So, if around 80% of millennials are willing to acknowledge the existence of a god, and statistically, after Christianity, the next largest religious group among millennials is nonreligious (with all other religions at only 8% combined for millennials who practice it); What is it about Christianity that is not working for the majority of the nonreligious?
Well, of the nonreligious millennials, 57% think that religious people are less tolerant of others. 49% do not like the position churches take on social/political issues. 41% do not like the idea of organized religion, and 34% “do not like religious leaders”.
My generation wants a god that makes sense, is inclusive, and is not tied down to religious practices, and obviously, the Judeo-Christian God of our grandparents, does not meet that criteria.
Yet and still, these are the exact same reasons why I am resolute in my faith.
I wanted the same type of God as mentioned and realized early on that the God every 50+ year old at my home church was worshiping, while yes, is the same in principle, is different in experience. How I experience God is unique to me and is not something I learned in a song or heard in a sermon one Sunday morning; It is something that I developed over time. Most millennials do not know what that means and even if they did, they do not take the time to cultivate such an experience.
Last week for example, my sister and I sat together to watch the live stream of our church. What used to be a dynamic worship experience has been reduced to consumption through a screen. At the end of the sermon, I walked away spiritually fulfilled, and excited to apply the lessons learned to my life. My sister on the other hand, was unimpressed, missing the performance she used to associate with the worship experience. Millennials want God but do not know how to get Him.
Because of diminished faith practices in the household and a nonexistent desire to learn for ourselves, millennials are perpetuating and exacerbating the trend of increasingly areligious generations. Religious leaders have a tall task ahead of them if they ever want to bring my generation back into the fold. I would suggest however, if they do not find away to do so, churches will be empty again soon after they have reopened their doors, and that should be the least of their worries.
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