Survey: 72% of Millennials ‘more spiritual than religious’

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Most young adults today don't pray, don't worship and don't read the Bible, a major survey by a Christian research firm shows.

If the trends continue, "the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships," says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. In the group's survey of 1,200 18- to 29-year-olds, 72% say they're "really more spiritual than religious."

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureYoung Adults

Posted April 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm

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1. Chris wrote:

Most young adults today don’t pray, don’t worship and don’t read the Bible, a major survey by a Christian research firm shows.

Well, that’s what they learned from their boomer parents, right?  The “spiritual” bit reflects the Wayne Dyer/Deepak Chopra/Tony Robbins new agey stuff I assume?

April 28, 2:59 pm | [comment link]
2. Old Pilgrim wrote:

Chris said:

Well, that’s what they learned from their boomer parents, right?  The “spiritual” bit reflects the Wayne Dyer/Deepak Chopra/Tony Robbins new agey stuff I assume?

Yes, I believe so, to both parts of your comment. They were taught to prefer the Deity as Cosmic Muffin. This is the ‘self-esteem’ generation, after all. The important thing to most of them is to feel good about themselves. It’s no wonder that the oldline (formerly, mainline) Protestant denominations are cracking up.

April 28, 3:50 pm | [comment link]
3. William P. Sulik wrote:

Religion implies a way of discipline including prayer, worship and Bible study.  It “often tells you to do things you don’t want to do, or to refrain from doing things you want to do, while spirituality is usually more . . . flexible.”

“Let the reader, where we are equally confident, stride on with me; where we are equally puzzled, pause to investigate with me; where he finds himself in error, come to my side; where he finds me erring, call me to his side. So that we may keep to the path, in love, as we fare on toward Him, ‘whose face is ever to be sought.’”

—Augustine of Hippo, The Trinity 1.5

April 28, 3:53 pm | [comment link]
4. Dilbertnomore wrote:

To be ‘spiritual’ is so in keeping with the times. Like ‘Hope’ and ‘Change,’ ‘spiritual’ can mean what ever the ‘spritual’ one wishes it to mean. How very convenient in this life, sadly, however, the soul of said ‘spiritual’ one will be called to account to defend the ‘spiritual’ life lived under such false convenience.

April 28, 4:09 pm | [comment link]
5. C. Wingate wrote:

The biggest assumption, of course, is that this pattern will not change as these people get older. Is that true? I think that’s pretty questionable in the absence of longitudinal studies. 18-26 has traditionally been understood as a period when institutional attachments were pretty weak; I suspect that if kids my age were surveyed in the mid 1970s, they would have gotten similarly depressing numbers. The generational paradigm really needs a lot more verification than I’ve ever seen; the spread of answers alone tends to imply that other aspects are more important determinants than year of birth.

April 28, 4:44 pm | [comment link]
6. graydon wrote:

Any religious system that does not have a place for sacrifice goes nowhere.  I can tell you my children think sacrifice is something that someone else does so they don’t have to.

April 28, 5:00 pm | [comment link]
7. NewTrollObserver wrote:

C. Wingate,

Among Millennials (born 1981 or later), 26% were religiously unaffiliated, as of 2010. Other generations had lower religious unaffiliation percentages, even at comparable ages.

From Pew:

Indeed, Millennials are significantly more unaffiliated than Generation Xers were at a comparable point in their life cycle (20% in the late 1990s) and twice as unaffiliated as Baby Boomers were as young adults (13% in the late 1970s). Young adults also attend religious services less often than older Americans today. And compared with their elders today, fewer young people say that religion is very important in their lives.

Yet in other ways, Millennials remain fairly traditional in their religious beliefs and practices. Pew Research Center surveys show, for instance, that young adults’ beliefs about life after death and the existence of heaven, hell and miracles closely resemble the beliefs of older people today.

April 28, 6:46 pm | [comment link]
8. Larry Morse wrote:

The reason of course is that religion offers them nothing, quite literally.
Why bother with the negatives when there are no positives? I shouldn’t laugh, I suppose, at such adolescent self-centeredness. But,you know, I am not sure these people will ever grow up. Why should they, when there is no need. And now, given what other states are doing - including Maine, blast it - they will have ever increasing supplies of pot to protect them from any encroaching reality. Yes, #7, they hold such notions because they doesn’t cost them anything. Why shouldn’t they when it is without pain or commitment, or cost of any kind. I suspect that even death will catch them unawares - will seem a undeserved punishment for a crime they never committed.  Larry

April 28, 7:32 pm | [comment link]
9. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

This very brief, rather sensationalistic article certainly doesn’t tell the whole story, but I think #7, NewTrollObserver, is right that this isn’t just the same old pattern we’ve grown complacently accustomed to in the past where 20-somethings drop out of church after leaving home and then return when they marry and have kids.  There is an accelerating, snowball effect going on where a significant number of people are never returning to church, and so their kids are never raised in church, etc.  We’re beginning to see places (such as on the West Coast or New England especially) where there are significant numbers of people who are 3rd or 4th generation never-churched folk.  That’s a genuinely new thing in the US (but not in Europe).

However, the other side of the story is that there is a very encouraging counter trend, of increasing numbers of deeply committed, zealous 20-something Christians who aren’t just believers or church goers, but fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.  Look at the phenomenal growth of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Teen Mania, or YWAM (Youth with a Mission).

This survey does suggest to me that we are ever more clearly entering a post-Christendom era, where Christianity is publicly disfavored rather than favored, with predictable results in terms of drastically cutting the numbers of nominal Christians.  But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Pre-Constantinian Christianity did very well as a maligned, misunderstood, persecuted minority.

But Thom Rainer’s analogy comparing the closure of churches to GM dealerships is highly provocative and questionable.  It suggests that Christian leaders have been as bad as managers as GM executives, and that isn’t necessarily so either.

David Handy+

April 28, 9:02 pm | [comment link]
10. Chris wrote:

“There is an accelerating, snowball effect going on where a significant number of people are never returning to church, and so their kids are never raised in church, etc.”

that describes a (too) big chunk of the boomers, they chose not to raise their millenial kids in the church and I don’t know how we get them in when it was never a part of their upbringing.  Like many here, I find the whole concept of no church during childhood to be somewhat surreal….

April 28, 10:02 pm | [comment link]
11. John Wilkins wrote:

I think people who are “spiritual but not religious,” just don’t want institutions telling them who they can have sex with.

The problem is that no faith grows without people who embody the virtue of sacrifice.

April 28, 11:31 pm | [comment link]
12. centexn wrote:


True ‘dat.

April 29, 12:56 am | [comment link]

© 2017 Kendall S. Harmon. All rights reserved.

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