Let’s look at the facts from a recent Pew Research survey.
A recent report by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life seems to validate concerns among Christian leaders that younger generations of Americans are losing the spiritual moorings that have helped keep their nation strong from its founding.
Analyzing the extent to which the religious views of America’s “millennials” — adults between the ages of 18 and 29 — differ from those of adults over 30, the Pew Forum’s “Religion Among the Millennials” report found that they are in general less affiliated with a particular religious faith than their over-30 counterparts, attend religious services less often, and say that religion is less important to them.
Here are some of the findings of the report:
- Twenty five percent of 18-to-29-year-old adults say they are religiously unaffiliated, describing themselves variously as “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “nothing in particular.” By contrast, about 19 percent of adults in their 30s, 15 percent of those in their 40s, 14 percent of those in their 50s, and less than ten percent of those 60 and older identify themselves as unaffiliated.
- Only 45 percent of adults under age 30 say that religion is important to them, compared with almost 60 percent of adults 30 and older.
- Sixty-five percent of 18 to 29-year-olds say they are “absolutely” certain of the existence of God, compared with 73 percent of their 30-and-older counterparts.
What about surveys conducted by Christians?
The findings of the Pew report appear to reflect the results of similar surveys conducted by both Catholic and evangelical researchers. For example, a recent survey by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion found that over 80 percent of Catholic adults aged 18 to 30 think that “morals are relative” and that “there is no definite right or wrong for everybody.”
Similarly, a 2008 study by evangelical pollster George Barna found that half of all adults in America say that Christianity is just one of many faith options… Barna found that unlike previous generations, over 70 percent of American adults today have jettisoned an organized approach to their faith and are more likely to come up with their own set of religious beliefs, with over 80 percent of young Americans under the age of 25 inclined to customize their faith.
“In today’s world Christian children and teens are in serious crisis,” says Larry Fowler, Executive Director of Global Training for Awana and author of the new book Raising a Modern-Day Joseph: A Timeless Strategy for Growing Great Kids, (David C. Cook, January, 2009.) “What we see happening in the world is merely a reflection of what is happening in the church. Most Christian teens succumb to the world and fall away from the Lord by the time they leave home.” According to Josh McDowell Ministries, denominations are seeing anywhere from 69 to 94 percent of teens leave the church after high school.
[…]Statistics show that even children who grow up in Christian homes, go to church on a regular basis, and participate in youth group activities are abandoning their faith at an alarming rate.
Naturally, my approach to fixing this failure of churches and parents is to leverage philosophical theology to define Christian claims and then leverage apologetics to sustain those claims in the public square. I would emphasize mainstream science apologetics in order to do that. As for the problem of young people being uncomfortable with moral judgments, we need to do a better job of explaining to them WHY some things are wrong.
Here are some -isms that the church and parents may want to try to address:
- postmodernism – the view that truth, especially religious and moral truth, cannot be known
- relativism – the view that each person defines their own reality by personal preferences
- pluralism – the view that all religions are basically the same – they make us act good
- universalism – the view that all religions are valid ways of knowing ultimate reality
- syncretism – the view that the truth claims of all religions do not conflict
Perhaps we should be focusing more time talking about truth and morality, using reason and evidence. I think that the critical mass of people in the church are against my plan – they have decided that the purpose of Christianity is to make people have happy feelings and to be part of an inclusive community. It’s not clear to me how happy feelings and an inclusive community are related to the goals of the Christian faith, but that’s what people seem to have decided on, anyway. They didn’t ask me, and they don’t ask me.