Are millennials losing faith?

By Anna Spoerre, @ASpoerre_DE

Fewer college students can be found filling church seats on Sundays.

Millennials are the least religious generation of the past six decades, according to research led by psychology professor Jean M. Twenge at San Diego State University. The study surveyed 11.2 million adolescents for 50 years.

Millennials — those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s — are less likely than other generations to identify with a religious organization and participate in spiritual rituals, such as prayer and meditation, according to the study.


Twenge’s research also found twice as many college students and high school seniors attended religious services in the 1970s compared to now. In the 1980s, three times as many college students affiliated with a religion than now.

Twenge attributes it to rising individualism in today’s culture, according to the study.

Darren Sherkat, a sociology professor at SIUC, said he does not agree with Twenge. Sherkat believes the growing non-religious trend is driven by the country’s changing demographics.

Sherkat discusses a decrease in religious participation, orthodoxy and religious identification in his book, Changing Faith: The Dynamics and Consequences of Americans’ Shifting Religious Identities.”

“It’s about young people growing up, old people dying off and new people coming to America and how many babies each group has,” Sherkat said.

He said he thinks the change is influenced by the less religious baby boomer generation raising Millennials, who are now rejecting religion at higher rates than any previous generation. However, he said most parents teach children their own beliefs and values.

“All religious groups have an interest in their own cultural reproduction and many parents value that,” Sherkat said.


Connor Guidry, a sophomore from Aurora studying linguistics, said for the most part, the older people he knows are much more religious than people his age, which is a trend he thinks will continue.

Sherkat said the ’70s civil rights movement also affected the change in religious following.

“Americans were, in a sense, too religious because we were very fragmented by its [mysticism] and it caused many people to cling to a kind of ethnic church,” Sherkat said.

Sherkat said people are leaving religion because it is politicized and because they reject the authority of conservative Christianity.

Guidry, who does not identify as religious, believes the Internet has played a role in the less-religious trend.

“With more exposure to more ideas, it’s hard to stick with something that may have contradictions when you can see all the facts and not just your side,” he said.

Brenda Krutsinger, a senior from Mount Vernon studying special and elementary education, claims a religious affiliation and plans to raise her future children religiously. But she agrees her generation is less religious than previous ones.

“I care because … I think [religion] gives some direction, at least with morals, and I think our culture needs that,” Krutsinger said.

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or @ASpoerre_DE