Sunday, May 10, 2009

Younger Americans Losing Religion

Almost two weeks ago, Pew Forum on Religion and Public life released a study examining Americans, the fluid nature of religious affiliations, and our growing lack of religious affiliation. Robert Putnam, a Harvard University professor who conducted the research, also notes that younger Americans are less likely to go to church or participate in organized religion than older generations. According to Putnam, historically the overall percentage of religiously unaffiliated is always low (5-10%), but in younger Americans that number currently swells to 30-40% - there seems to be, in my mind, a positive correlation between age and religious identification. It would be incorrect, however, to say that these Unaffiliateds are atheists, as most are disillusioned with organized religion:
"Many of them are people who would otherwise be in church," Putnam said. "They have the same attitidues [sic] and values as people who are in church, but they grew up in a period in which being religious meant being politically conservative, especially on social issues."

Putnam says that in the past two decades, many young people began to view organized religion as a source of "intolerance and rigidity and doctrinaire political views," and therefore stopped going to church.
Putnam argues that this fact will affect the political sphere for years to come. He also believes this will heighten the debate about the decline of a Christian America, he believes (like me) that religion will adapt:
Given that today's young "nones" probably would be in church if they didn't associate religion with far-right political views, he says, new faith groups may evolve to serve them.

"Jesus said, 'Be fishers of men,'" says Putnam, "and there's this pool with a lot of fish in it and no fishermen right now."

In the end, he says, this "stunning" trend of young people becoming less religious could lead to America's next great burst of religious innovation.


Anonymous said...

I agree. I believe that the children are waking up and finding out that you don't need to be in church to do what Jesus came down to teach us. Some have seen their church cover-up/hide child molesters (their priests) and that is wrong. If you blindly follow your faith without question, you invite or are an accomplice to the church doing whatever it wants. This includes raping and damaging innocent children for the rest of their lives.

You should always question everything, or at least be aware of your surroundings, and that includes church.

Others find as they are 'forced' to attend church as a child, some people who are the most religious are the biggest hypocrites. They do things for people, but only when it is in the public eye.

I have taught my children to do for others no matter who is around. You feel the best when no one knows you did it.

I personally feel it is more important to live your life as Jesus would want us to, instead of seeing how many times you can go to church.

When I moved here, my neighbors said, "We have church on Wednesdays, Sunday mornings and Sunday nights!" I said, "Wow, you guys must be really bad...."


Because it's never good enough. If you are approached by someone they always ask you what religion you are, or what church you go to. I tell them I will not respond to their question because it's never good enough. In the beginning, it was enough just to believe in God. Then you had to be Christian. Then you had to be Christian and be 'saved.' Then you had to be Christian, saved, and be (for example) Baptist. Then you had to be Christian, saved, Baptist, AND attend their church. But when you do all of that, the people you attend church with pick on the people at church... So it's never good enough. Ever.

We need to focus more on raising our children to have a big heart instead of raising them to attend church often.

I always felt Satan invented religion.

But that's just my opinion....

Kent H said...

Your cynicism and criticisms are ones I hear a great deal of in the contemporary culture and (believe it or not) I understand and find too often justified. I am a three-time Baptist church pastor and a Christian college professor. Believe me, if you want to see the hurt and inconsistency of a church or religious group -- see it from the inside.
But that is why we need God. That's why Christ came -- not just to teach but to ransom sinners from their sin. I agree that so much of what is passing as religious today is a thinly veiled hypocrisy with horrendous negative results. Satan did NOT invent "religion" per se, but he sure has perfected its use for damage.
That is why I am not a "religionist." I am a believer. I agree that in man's eyes there is always something to pursue to be more impressive but when one asks God His opinion, the opinion of people makes very little difference. We don't throw out church because there are hypocrites there. Go on and make it one more and attend. We're all just fallen men/women. We don't stop going to work, the club, the games, etc. because things don't go our way. Instead look to hear from God (I believe largely in Scripture), find out His opinion (an opinion with which we have no right to disagree) and don't worry so much about what people do, say, or put forward as "religion."
I like very much (as far as it goes) how you have raised your children to do the right things, regardless of who is watching -- that is the kind of God presented in the Bible -- if not so much in the average church. But don't let a cynical view of church rob from you and your family what God Himself might ultimately wish to show you personally.
My two cents worth -- good post.

Anonymous said...

Leave the teens alone with religion. Isn't it bad enough that we start with forcing it down their throats in Sunday School from the time they are allowed in the church care program. Without their input. With the religion of their parents.

Every holiday, Easter, Christmas, Halloween is cloaked in religion. All fantasy masked with men in red suits and bunnies with eggs. By the time they are old enough to think for themselves, maybe they just start to realize that the facts of religion are fantasy only to come back to the flock when they have children themselves-like their parents. Its a vocious cycle that will be broken by a generation before too long. Take a look at the movie Jesus Camp. . . and tell me that religion is a good thing for children or youth.

Kent H said...

With all the "anonymous" threads, it's hard to know with whom I am discussing.
But, as I said, "religions" have had their several affects on culture and people - positive and negative. But truth, salvation, faith, Christ, God stand above any man-generated religion. And again, if you find a "perfect" group of any kind, stay away from. You'll just screw it up. But the finest people I know are people of true faith (if not religiosity) and are people of personal integrity, conviction, and true character.
Your venomous views toward people (or groups) of faith is a heart of unteachable rhetoric (it seems) and I will pray for you -- not to come to my view, but to come to a heart-felt truth. All the rigorous pointing out of the rather obvious frivolities and inconsistencies of others doesn't change the fact that mankind needs God. He placed that need in us and even the debate shows a seeking of one sort or another.