Are Millennials less religious than other gens?

12 Jul

This morning I was reading a Boomer’s blog post about religion, churches and his view of generational shifts in “religiosity” (not sure if I made up that word). He wrote, “It is not uncommon to hear that the generation in their 20’s and 30’s are agnostic or atheist.”

My response through the lens of applied generational theory:

Millennials, those in the 7-ish to 29-y.o. range in 2011, are raised in a culture influenced mostly by Boomer values. Boomers orient as a generation toward vision, values and religion. It shouldn’t be too surprising then that if you’re raised by a generation that leans one way, that you lean the OTHER way. It’s not that Millennials are mostly agnostic; it’s that they’re less curious about their internal and spiritual worlds and more curious about the external and physical world. Boomers, who grow up in a structured and well-built world as children, in young adulthood created a cultural change to focus on the meaning and purpose (of everything!).

So as Millennials now define young adulthood, what do we see? Millennials grow up in a values-fixated world, and in young adulthood, bring a focus back to the physical world and the importance of structure.

GenXers, in between both, correct the excesses of a values-fixated world and lead the shift toward a world where systems function better, thus allowing the Millennials a platform upon which they can bring their “Hero Energy” into society and actually use it!
The Silent/Homelanders are another story for another day.

So I offer this to the Boomer who looks at Millennials and sees them, along with his generational cohorts, as more agnostic and atheist: generations always see other generations through their own filters. (Right? Makes sense.) Imagine what the Boomers’ values-fixation and generational unwillingness to define as important the care of the physical world, e.g. roads, bridges, public parks, IT systems, looks like to Millennials who are raring to go, raised for their role as Heroes and wanting very much to live in a world that is safe, gleaming and structured. Then let’s talk about which generation is more this and less that. Being more religious or more agnostic is not a good-er or badder (I might have just made up two more words) thing. It’s a cycle and a rhythm that happens naturally to correct excesses, provide what’s needed now and create the path for a future that’s coming. That’s what generations do; they balance each other, allowing for growth, renewal and evolution.


3 Responses to “Are Millennials less religious than other gens?”

  1. Kirsty July 12, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    As a 12 yr Catholic school grad, I’ve found myself appalled by the things done in the name of religion, whether it’s 9/11 or the irrelevant debate regarding Obama being a secret Muslim or the amount of money raised to build megachurches & line ministers’ pockets…these things make me want to flee from religion. I’ve found myself becoming more spiritual in raising my daughter. I’m not agnostic or an atheist – I just find each organized religion’s proselytizing & finger-pointing at the other religion distasteful.

  2. Tim Jones July 19, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    Totally agree but would like to add a view from inside a church. I’ve been working with late wave Xers and first wave Millennials for about 8 years now inside a church setting and in college ministries around Maryland. My view from inside a church is that Boomers stepped away from the traditions of their parents and started many “non-denominational” churches. They did not want to be a part of a larger controlling denomination and wanted independently run churches. Boomers also left the traditional decorations such as stain-glass windows and a Crucifix or plain Cross on the wall. What they ended up with is grey boxes that look more like a home depot or a business rather than the pews and a country church steeple.
    In response to this I see Millennials inside a church open to traditions, they see beauty in stain-glass windows. It amazes me of their love for even traditional hymns too. Now they may be a slightly different beat and drums and electric guitar rather than a pipe organ, but they find comfort in tradition respect the history of these timeless songs. This also goes beyond simply decorations, it also goes to core beliefs. I have seen the edgy relevant views of boomers turn with Millennials actually taking more fundamental stances in their beliefs. Collin Hansen wrote a book called Young, Restless, Reformed in response to this movement.
    One more shift I see is in agreement with Kristy’s comment to the Boomers desire to build mega churchs, I see Millennials more comfortable and desiring much smaller congregations, more community based than regionally. This would explain the church planting movement that not only has hit our nation but also our region, I have a friend in Northern VA that has tracked down around 300 church plants in the Baltimore/Washington region, all under 5 years old. Just some thoughts. Hope they help.

    • JessieX July 19, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

      Very interesting, Tim. Everything you write and observe is spot on! I appreciate the front-row view you have. Millennials bring a return to modesty, Common Man / Average Joe values and tradition, and I can see this even more so through your eyes. Hey, I’d love to learn more about “church planting,” and am figuring the Fusion Church is one of these. Shipley’s Grant Starbucks, or Dobbin, next time we cross paths.

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