Report: Millennial Views of Religious Institutions Dips Even More

January 5th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

When it comes to churches and religious organizations, young people are increasingly skeptical. Over the past five years, Millennials' ratings of these institutions have sharply declined — falling 18 percent since 2010 — and the reason for the shift is hard to pinpoint.

A new report from the Pew Research Center found that the Millennial generation, people between the ages of 18 and 34, ranks below the last three generations (Gen X, Boomers, and the Silent Generation) in terms of positive views of churches and organized religion.

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"Fifty-five percent [of Millennials] now say churches have a positive impact on the country compared with five years ago, when nearly three-quarters (73 percent) said this," Pew reported. "Views among older generations have changed little over this time period."


This fits comfortably in a pattern of polls that reveal the decline of religious institutions in the U.S., especially among young people. As ATTN: previously reported, Millennials are also less likely to profess a belief in God, and only about four-in-10 say religion is very important in their lives.

As far as explanations go, researchers at San Diego State University theorize that the overall trend is linked to cultural factors such as a rise of individualism among the country's younger population. In a 2015 study, unrelated to the Pew report, they looked at data from more than 11 million respondents from four national surveys of Americans between the ages of 13 to 18, taken between 1966 and 2014.


"Individualism puts the self first, which doesn't always fit well with the commitment to the institution and other people that religion often requires," Dr. Jean Twenge, the study's lead author, said in a press release. "As Americans become more individualistic, it makes sense that fewer would commit to religion."

Twenge added:

"Millennial adolescents are less religious than Boomers and GenX'ers were at the same age. We also looked at younger ages than the previous studies. More of today's adolescents are abandoning religion before they reach adulthood, with an increasing number not raised with religion at all."

While it is not entirely clear whether an increased cultural value of individualism or some other, social factor offers an answer to the overarching question — why do Millennials seem to be abandoning the church? — the evidence supporting this trend is compelling nevertheless.

By all measures included in the Pew survey, young people appear to be less religious than older generations. Even when Boomers were in their 20s and early 30s, for example, they were substantially more religious and viewed churches more favorably.


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"But while Millennials are not as religious as older Americans by some measures of religious observance, they are as likely to engage in many spiritual practices," the Pew Research Center reported. "For instance, like older Americans, more than four-in-ten of these younger adults (46 percent) say they feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe at least once a week. Likewise, most also say they think about the meaning and purpose of life on a weekly basis (55 percent), again, similar to older generations."