WASHINGTON (BP)–Young adults today are considered less religious than previous generations, but a recent report shows Americans age 18 to 29 still remain traditional on a few religious beliefs.
“Though young adults pray less often than their elders do today, the number of young adults who say they pray every day rivals the portion of young adults who said the same in prior decades,” reported a study from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The report, “Religion Among the Millennials,” is part of a Pew Research Center series that focuses on the values and behaviors of teens that make up the millennial generation — those who were born after 1980.
The report is based on data from a variety of Pew Research Center surveys that compare the beliefs of the millennial generation with older generations.
Although faith tends to increase with age, the report shows a steady decline of religious affiliation in recent generations.
“If you think of religion primarily as a matter of whether people belong to a particular faith and attend the worship services of that faith … then millennials are less religious than other recent generations,” said Alan Cooperman, associate director of research for the Pew Research Forum, in an interview with The Los Angeles Times.
Twenty-five percent of adults under 30 consider themselves unaffiliated with a religion. Instead, they describe their religion as “agnostic” or “nothing in particular.” In addition, young adults are unlikely to affiliate with a religion when they are older.
The report, released in February, also shows that young adults do not attend church services on a regular basis. Only 18 percent of adults between the ages of 19 and 30 attend a service once a week, compared to 21 percent of members of Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) when they were in their 20s.
It is interesting to note, however, that there is little difference between generations when it comes to certain markers of religion.
Millennials and all other generations were similar in their beliefs in a heaven, a hell and miracles.
Though young adults are less likely to believe in God, the percentage of those who believe in God with absolute certainty is similar to Gen Xers when they were in their early 20s.
“Just over half of Millennials in the 2008 [General Social Survey] (53 percent) say they have no doubt that God exists, a figure that is very similar to that among Gen Xers in the late 1990s,” said the report.
Greg Smith, one of the researchers for the Pew study, commented in an interview with Fox News, “What this shows is that the U.S. is still pretty unique, still very, very religious.”
Smith is unsure of the impact these numbers will have in the future. The report shows the percentage of the unaffiliated tends to remain the same as each generation grows older, and researchers predict the same for the millennials in the years ahead.
The entire report can be read online at www.pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=510.
Hillary May is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.