On the one hand, young adults are losing faith and leaving the Church; others are searching for meaning and belonging, and finding it in Christian communities. What is going on?
My research focuses on millennials, which I define as those born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s: they are now in their mid-twenties to late thirties. Sociologists suggest that this cohort is not particularly hostile to religion: rather, they are the inheritors of a century of religious decline. The mechanisms that reinforced a Christian world-view in the UK have been eroded, leaving most with no understanding of the basic tenets of Christianity.
Professor Grace Davie, of the University of Exeter, is correct: religious belief has become an option rather than an obligation — something that individuals may embrace if they are interested. But most young adults are not. They are also not interested in pretending to be something they are not. Authenticity is highly prized.
Professor David Voas, of the UCL Institute of Education, argues that, on average, people experience little change in their religious beliefs and practices once they reach their early twenties. He writes that “Churchgoers in their twenties will probably continue to attend for the rest of their lives” (Features, 12 January 2018).
My research suggests, however, that millennials and “Generation Z” (those under 25) continue to explore faith for longer. Professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett coined the phrase “Emerging Adulthood” to describe the lengthening of adult identity-formation among today’s young. Many spend much of their twenties trying to work out who they are and what they believe, and so both convert and reject faith later than in former generations.
“Many spend much of their twenties trying to work out who they are and what they believe, and so both convert and reject faith later than in former generations.” This week, @PerrinRuth writes for us, drawing on interviews for her new book, out now https://t.co/KI4WOYzNVm
— Madeleine Davies (@MadsDavies) January 31, 2020