Today begins a two-parter, and final breakdown, of the Pew Research Center’s survey on millennials. We turn to millennials and religious behaviors and how, ultimately, it will affect millennial parenting.
Religion is perhaps the largest gap between millennials and older generations. Millennials are, by far, less religious at their current age than Boomers and Silent/Greatest generations were.
One in four millennials are unaffiliated with any faith, more than Gen X (20%) and Boomers (13%). Additionally, millennials attend religious services less often and view religion as less important in their lives. But, it is interesting to note that millennials’ views on life after death, miracles, heaven and hell, and God’s existence resemble very much the attitudes of older generations.
68% of millennials consider themselves Christian (43% Protestant and 22% Catholic). That compares to 76% for Gen X, and around 80% for Boomers. But, millennials are really no more likely to be agnostic or atheist than Gen Xers or Boomers. The biggest discrepancy comes from young adults who left their religious upbringing without becoming involved in a new faith.
One-third of millennials say they attend church at least once a week, compared with 41% of those over 30. Those most likely to attend church were Evangelical Protestants (58%) and Historically Black Protestants (59%).
In regards to other religious practices, millennials are less likely to read religious scripture (27% to 36%), meditate on a weekly basis (26% to 43%), and pray every day (48% to 56%). But, these results do not differ much from when Gen X and Boomers were the age of today’s millennials. Data tends to show that daily prayer increases as people get older. In addition, millennials are very much in-line with older generations when it comes to the existence of God, miracles, heaven and hell, and life after death.
I think it’s not hard to show that, well, millennials are less religious right now than their generational counterparts. But, millennials are not less likely to believe in God or a higher power. It rather seems like millennials just tend to do less in practicing religion.
The biggest question surrounding these results is, as millennials grow older, will religious practices increase? Examining the data, it seems like millennials are just as firm in their beliefs as older generations, but less likely to be affiliated with any particular religion.
This is not a recent phenomenon. From my interactions with fellow millennials, we are less likely to approve of “someone or something trying to control our lives”. Religious affiliation tends to be thought of by millennials as that. By and large, it seems as if many millennials prefer to take on a personal relationship with God, rather than using a church or religious organization to help facilitate that. I actually left my original faith (American Baptist), became non-denominational for a while, and am now in the process of joining my wife and son’s faith (Catholicism). Having a kid actually very much changed my views on religiosity. I wanted my son to grow up in a faith, so I started going to church again. And since I wanted my son to be raised Catholic, I also decided to join the church.
It will be interesting to see if similar occurrences take place with millennials, as there is no breakdown right now in religious affiliation between millennials with children and those without.
Churchgoing is very much a trait that is handed down through parenting. That is, if your parents go to church, you probably also go to church, at least for the bulk of your childhood. If millennials do not go to church at the rate at which their predecessors did, it’s less likely our children will attend church as they grow older.
With such a small blip of millennials having children, it’s very hard to tell what is in store for religious affiliation among millennials. Will millennial parents continue/go back to church when they have a child, or will they continue to not go to church? The answer to this question will have a very, very heavy impact on the future of religious affiliation in our country.
Tomorrow, I will break down the final portion of the Pew Research Center’s survey: Religious Beliefs. You’ll definitely want to stay tuned for that one, because it could have a profound impact on how issues in our churches today may change forever.
As an aside, Parker had his weight check today, and grew a full pound this past month, keeping on his percentile curve (finally!). It looks like our little guy is just destined to be a string bean! The pediatrician was very pleased and so are we!