US Millennials Less Religious

Similar to youth in other countries, a Pew Research Center report on the US Millennial Generation (defined as ages 18 to 29) found they’re less religious than older people but as likely to pray (45% pray daily and about 25% meditate weekly).[i] Only 25% affiliate with a particular faith. About one quarter say they are atheists, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” They’re less likely to attend religious services than older generations–only 18% attend at least once a week. A general decline in American’s confidence in religion began in the 1970s, not just among youth: Only 44% of adults have confidence in “the church or organized religion.”[ii] Less than half of Millennials say that religion is very important in their lives (45% compared to 69% of ages 65 and older) but two-thirds are certain of God’s existence and their beliefs about the afterlife are similar to older people.

A longitudinal Study of Youth and Religion conducted telephone surveys of US teens, ages 13-17, in 2002 and 2003.[iii] Half of the teens believed religious organizations are doing a good job for the country, 17% had no opinion, while only 10% felt religious organizations were doing a poor job. Black youth were less likely to be alienated from organized religion than white youth, while girls were less alienated than boys. The same teens were surveyed again in 2005 when a sizeable minority became less religious, while a small minority became more interested in alternative religious beliefs like reincarnation. Fewer reported belief in a person God, judgment day and an afterlife, but the majority found their religious congregations inspiring.

In a 2006 survey of 2,546 Americans ages 18 to 24, almost one-quarter had no religious preference but 40% said religion was personally very important.[iv] More than 100 questions were asked of 1,280 young Americans ages 13-24 by the Associated Press and MTV in 2007. Almost half said religion and spiritually are very important to them and more than half believe in a higher power.

A large 2014 Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center reported Millennials became less religious over time than older generations compared with 2007 survey, with older Millennials even less affiliated with a religion than they were in 2007.[i] They’re the only generation where less than half say religion is very important to them. Only half of Millennials are certain that God exists and slightly more than one-quarter attend religious services at least once a week. Muslims are more likely to believe in God and women are more likely to pray every day in all age groups. The respondents of various ages are becoming more spiritual, defined as regularly feeling a “deep sense of spiritual peace.” Young adults are more liberal socially, more accepting of homosexuality even among evangelical Protestants, with more liberal attitudes bout the environment, the role of government, and immigration. The exception is religious Millennials aren’t more supportive of abortion rights than older generations. As more religious generations die, we’re seeing less religious observance.

Here are youth quotes from other countries about their religious beliefs:

To become mature as a sprit and then go to paradise. Clinton, 11, m, Nigeria


What does Jesus look like? Kendra, 9, f, Canadian in Belize


Why doesn’t everybody believe in God? I’m a Christian. Lewis, 12, m, US


Jesus lives today, tomorrow and forever. Jesus is the way, truth and life.

Gerold, 14, m, India


I love Jesus. He loves you too and wants to be your friend!

Katerina, 16, f, Ukraine


[i] Pew Research Center, “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.” February 24, 2010.

“Religion Among the Millennials: Less Religiously Active Than Older Americans, But Fairly Traditional In Other Ways,” poll February 17, 2010

[ii] Lydia Saad, “US Confidence in Organized Religion at Low Point,” Gallup Politics, July 12, 2012.

[iii] Christian Smith, Robert Faris and Melinda Denton, “A Research Report of the National Study of Youth and Religion, Are American Youth Alienated from Organized Religion?” Number 6.

Melinda Denton, L.D. Pearce, and Christian Smith, “Religion and Spirituality on the Path Through Adolescence,” Research Report Number 8, 2008.

[iv] Harvard University, “Youth Survey on Politics and Public Service,” October 2006.

[i] “U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious,” Pew Research Center, November 3, 2015.


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