(AEI) Generation Z and the future of faith in America

The story of religious change in America, especially religious disaffiliation, is often cast as the result of independent decisions made by a rising generation living by a different set of values. But new evidence paints a much more complicated picture than the traditional narrative of generationally driven disaffiliation. Young adults today have had entirely different religious and social experiences than previous generations did. The parents of millennials and Generation Z did less to encourage regular participation in formal worship services and model religious behaviors in their children than had previous generations. Many childhood religious activities that were once common, such as saying grace, have become more of the exception than the norm.

We have long known the importance of formative religious experiences in setting the trajectory of faith commitments throughout life. For as long as we have been able to measure religious commitments, childhood religious experiences have strongly predicted adult religiosity. They still do. If someone had robust religious experiences growing up, they are likely to maintain those beliefs and practices into adulthood. Without robust religious experiences to draw on, Americans feel less connected to the traditions and beliefs of their parents’ faith.

There is little evidence to suggest that Americans who have disaffiliated will ever return. First, the age at which Americans choose to give up their families’ religion—most well before they turn 18—suggests that they have not established a deeply rooted commitment to a set of religious beliefs and practices. Disaffiliated Americans express significant skepticism about the societal benefits of religion, even more than those who have never identified with a religious tradition. They also strongly disagree with the majority of religious Americans, who believe in the importance of raising children in a religious faith. Moreover, having children does not appear to affect religious involvement. Unaffiliated parents are not any more likely to be religiously active than those without children, and most are unconvinced that religion serves as an important source of moral instruction.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture