More Young People Are Moving Away From Religion, But Why?

Jetavan

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One-fifth of Americans are religiously unaffiliated — higher than at any time in recent U.S. history — and those younger than 30 especially seem to be drifting from organized religion. A third of young Americans say they don't belong to any religion.

NPR Morning Edition co-host David Greene wanted to understand why, so he gathered a roundtable of young people at a synagogue in Washington, D.C. The Historic 6th & I Synagogue seemed like the right venue: It's both a holy and secular place that has everything from religious services to rock concerts. Greene speaks with six people — three young women and three young men — all struggling with the role of faith and religion in their lives.
 

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Simple. Most of them can't imagine that something could limit their behavior. Also they're raised in a liberal, relativistic spirit of "There's no truth, all opinions are valid".
 

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Two things. Firstly, how exactly does "unaffiliated" mean irreligious? Oftentimes Evangelicals and "non-denominational" Protestants or even lapsed mainline religious folks will consider themselves unaffiliated even though they personally believe in a particular religion. Likewise, there are a ton of New Age/spiritual people who don't formally belong to an organized religion but still adhere to occult/spiritual stuff religiously. Secondly, I think the reason many younger people might be moving away from organized religion is because a) no one likes to follow rules. We live in a liberal society where everyone wants to do what they want. The age where naked women are only a few clicks and buttons away on the internet. Religions generally enforce a strict code of behavior and rules on everyone and no one likes it. I don't blame them. I don't like it either. Orthodoxy is probably the most sexually suppressive religion there is. But unlike most young people--I still adhere to it because I think it's true--even if I don't like it. Then b) because let's face it, we live in a more Scholastic intellectual society. It's harder now to adhere to something with zero empirical evidence than it was say 50 or 60 years ago when America wasn't as science-based and taught literal Creationism in schools. The religions still don't really have an answer to why we should believe in God if there is no evidence for it. All of the arguments are existential and related to feelings--and when you are a young person, you don't really have any existential sense of self or deep feelings. It's the wildest, funnest time of your life. This is probably why I think I see more older people who've matured converting to religion than I do younger people my age.
 

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Jetavan said:
JamesR said:
something with zero empirical evidence
Really? Zero?
Yeah zero. The only legitimate argument that could be made is for the Resurrection, and even then, most of those arguments are based off of heavy biblical speculation, twisting and somewhat dishonest Protestant fundamentalists.
 

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Cyrillic said:
Simple. Most of them can't imagine that something could limit their behavior.
+1
Such attitudes as Carpe diem, life is to use it, there is only my pleasure etc.

But in some cases, after a certain time they realize they want something/someone that would limit them, so then they choose e.g Islam because it demands and gives limits
 

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Cyrillic said:
Simple. Most of them can't imagine that something could limit their behavior. Also they're raised in a liberal, relativistic spirit of "There's no truth, all opinions are valid".
This does not match my experience
 

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I would say that yes the entire nation is changing.  America is becoming more liberal just like western Europe has been for some time now.  We are increasingly taught the idea that "Truth is relative" unless it can be proven with large amounts of empirical evidence.  It's become more acceptable today to say things like "All you need is love", and "He has his truth, I have mine." which would have made no sense in a previous generation, or at the very least was only a half-truth.  

I would also say that our generation is no longer indoctrinated with the fear of Hell, in the way our ancestors were.  We no longer feel the urgent need to come to "know Christ" and to confess him before men, so that he might tell about us before his Father -- every Sunday.  We're starting to think that it's okay for gay people to get married, that it's no longer a sin.  It's become more acceptable to believe that premarital sex and contraceptives are okay, and abortion should be allowed under certain circumstances.  As you can see, this seems to be a complete turn around from our ancestors more traditional ideas.
 

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i remember being about 8-10 years old and telling my grandparents i was going to mass (I was raised Roman catholic) and instead i would just sit in a park under a pine tree day dreaming or what not, I cant even remember at this point.  I think i was simply just bored, how could God compare to TV and super Nintendo right? From there it doesn't take much to graduate to short uniform skirts marijuana and bee,r no?  Mix that with some internet porn and a nice salary and i'm my own little god, who needs Jesus Christ? sin? whats sin? how could i possibly miss the mark when i'm having such a great time!!!! Rules? obedience? temperance? chastity? don't you know who I AM!       
 

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Cyrillic said:
Simple. Most of them can't imagine that something could limit their behavior. Also they're raised in a liberal, relativistic spirit of "There's no truth, all opinions are valid".
That's just your opinion.  :police:
 

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I'm of this demographic and honestly, I think the main reason is that nobody is being exposed to a context wherein they can purposefully and meaningfully engage God. The "irreligious" or "unaffiliated" I know aren't so because they've thought long and hard about life, and simply couldn't accept God. It's more of an "I've never really thought about it before..." type of thing. Or an, "I'm doing just fine with God, why do I need religion?" type of thing.

In other words, I don't think my generation is necessarily rejecting God, He's just not even on their radar, so "religion" makes little sense to them.

I'm not basing this on any hard data, these are just musings based on my own experiences and conversations with people.
 

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Sleeper said:
I'm of this demographic and honestly, I think the main reason is that nobody is being exposed to a context wherein they can purposefully and meaningfully engage God. The "irreligious" or "unaffiliated" I know aren't so because they've thought long and hard about life, and simply couldn't accept God. I....
In other words, I don't think my generation is necessarily rejecting God, He's just not even on their radar, so "religion" makes little sense to them.

I'm not basing this on any hard data, these are just musings based on my own experiences and conversations with people.
  I agree completely.  People who think young people are irreligious because they don't like to be told to do, are missing the huge influence of advertising on the young.  They love to be told what to do, but it has to be relevent.

 The fact of the matter is, to many people, secularism, liberal democracy, and consumerism work just fine pragmaticly.  They haven't encountered God in a way that stirs their spiritual yearnings, and I do think people have those.  Often times the God they get in religion is a superficial or authoritarian image they don't find worthy of their devotion.  People who rant about "relativism" miss the point.  

  I've met some young people who are badly broken by life and their usual encounter with Christianity, the message that their problems in their life are simply due to moral failings, to leave them completely cold, or worse, repulsed.

 

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Why can't you people just understand that in order for more people to believe in God, you need to try to make Him appealing to people with a rationalist mindset? This is why no one in the educated first world is accepting Him anymore.
 

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Cyrillic said:
Simple. Most of them can't imagine that something could limit their behavior. Also they're raised in a liberal, relativistic spirit of "There's no truth, all opinions are valid".
I've heard the first two and the above is far too simplistic and not applicable to the persons in the interviews.  One might suggest that actually *listening* to people such as those in the series would be a better way and could lead to addressing real ideas instead of vague assertions that don't apply.
 

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JamesR said:
Why can't you people just understand that in order for more people to believe in God, you need to try to make Him appealing to people with a rationalist mindset? This is why no one in the educated first world is accepting Him anymore.
Or address some of the concerns or problems that some people have with the idea of God or how He is/has been represented.  The cases this morning for example of one person whose mother had cancer four times while the father was absent/abusive/drank.  Or another person whose brother killed himself.  These aren't "rationalist", these are people who have been hurt/damaged and religion hasn't been part of a good.
 

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Ebor said:
JamesR said:
Why can't you people just understand that in order for more people to believe in God, you need to try to make Him appealing to people with a rationalist mindset? This is why no one in the educated first world is accepting Him anymore.
Or address some of the concerns or problems that some people have with the idea of God or how He is/has been represented.  The cases this morning for example of one person whose mother had cancer four times while the father was absent/abusive/drank.  Or another person whose brother killed himself.  These aren't "rationalist", these are people who have been hurt/damaged and religion hasn't been part of a good.
I know several people like this that I can think of off the top of my head.

Then there are several more people I know who had domineering, very "religious" parents, who were extremely hypocritical, and as a result of that, these people are no longer involved in any religion.
 

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Cyrillic said:
Simple. Most of them can't imagine that something could limit their behavior. Also they're raised in a liberal, relativistic spirit of "There's no truth, all opinions are valid".
This is what I see among people I know.
 

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Cyrillic said:
Simple. Most of them can't imagine that something could limit their behavior. Also they're raised in a liberal, relativistic spirit of "There's no truth, all opinions are valid".
This.

It's so easy, as a youth, to get caught up in this.  It's extremely difficult to hang tight to any sort of idealism that claims to be correct among all others.  Most young people jump ship in their mid teens. 

Also, the pressure from our peers to conform to the general "ideal" is quite a heavy load to bare, and teens without a stable faith (that they hold by themselves, rather than one they are yoked to by their family,) such as those in traditions with little to no accountability to Christ, often see no point in faith when they start "thinking for themselves."
 

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The 20th century was the most catastrophic the world has ever seen. It destroyed nations, cultures, ideologies. What else did you think would happen in its aftermath? Materialism is the only conceivable answer left for millions of people. Of course I think there are also boring sociological elements at play, but looking at broader historical trends, it makes sense.

That's my secular answer. As a Christian, I think it's the same old story- people living as if Christ never came, or "thinking themselves wise, they have become fools."
 

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There are certain fashions of thought, as others have pointed out on this website in relation to other phenomena (e.g., the rise of Islam in the West). I think it would be naive to discount that entirely when it comes to the rise in agnosticism. It seems, bizarrely, that many people think it more "open-minded" to not belong to any religion and just be a good person, because after all with so many religions (and even so many different forms of what the religiously-illiterate popular media call the same religion, such that tambourine-shaking, snake-handling Baptists and Orthodox Christians seem to be presented as though they are on equal footing), it's a bit arrogant -- so the claim goes -- to say that one is right and the others can't possibly be. So, in the interest of being as tolerant and open-minded as possible, many people find it easier to give up any strong conviction in favor of bland pietism and the "social gospel".

This isn't just a young person's game, either. My grandmother, who is otherwise very pleasant, reacted quite negatively to my renewed/maturing interest in religion in my early 20s, saying that she couldn't understand why anyone would bother with it when "all they do is tell you what to do". An understandable idea, perhaps, for someone who knows only Western Christianity (her family was Greenlandic Danish, so I'm assuming there were some Lutherans in there at some point), but that's all the more reason we should be working to bring such people (and there are millions upon millions here in the West) to Orthodoxy...  ;)
 

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dzheremi said:
There are certain fashions of thought, as others have pointed out on this website in relation to other phenomena (e.g., the rise of Islam in the West). I think it would be naive to discount that entirely when it comes to the rise in agnosticism. It seems, bizarrely, that many people think it more "open-minded" to not belong to any religion and just be a good person, because after all with so many religions (and even so many different forms of what the religiously-illiterate popular media call the same religion, such that tambourine-shaking, snake-handling Baptists and Orthodox Christians seem to be presented as though they are on equal footing), it's a bit arrogant -- so the claim goes -- to say that one is right and the others can't possibly be. So, in the interest of being as tolerant and open-minded as possible, many people find it easier to give up any strong conviction in favor of bland pietism and the "social gospel".

This isn't just a young person's game, either. My grandmother, who is otherwise very pleasant, reacted quite negatively to my renewed/maturing interest in religion in my early 20s, saying that she couldn't understand why anyone would bother with it when "all they do is tell you what to do". An understandable idea, perhaps, for someone who knows only Western Christianity (her family was Greenlandic Danish, so I'm assuming there were some Lutherans in there at some point), but that's all the more reason we should be working to bring such people (and there are millions upon millions here in the West) to Orthodoxy...  ;)
I find it more difficult to keep ourselves "Orthodox enough" after we've found it...  as opposed to "bringing others into the fold"
 

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JamesR said:
Why can't you people just understand that in order for more people to believe in God, you need to try to make Him appealing to people with a rationalist mindset? This is why no one in the educated first world is accepting Him anymore.
Because the rationalist mindset is false and inimical to Christianity.
 

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Cavaradossi said:
JamesR said:
Why can't you people just understand that in order for more people to believe in God, you need to try to make Him appealing to people with a rationalist mindset? This is why no one in the educated first world is accepting Him anymore.
Because the rationalist mindset is false and inimical to Christianity.
Explain why. No religion as far as I know has been able to explain why even though I have been perfectly open to receiving the answer. This is the problem; rationalism is the only heresy that the Church has not refuted yet.
 

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JamesR said:
Cavaradossi said:
JamesR said:
Why can't you people just understand that in order for more people to believe in God, you need to try to make Him appealing to people with a rationalist mindset? This is why no one in the educated first world is accepting Him anymore.
Because the rationalist mindset is false and inimical to Christianity.
Explain why. No religion as far as I know has been able to explain why even though I have been perfectly open to receiving the answer. This is the problem; rationalism is the only heresy that the Church has not refuted yet.
Easy, if you were too rational you would end up leaving the faith.  As it is, most people don't think things through and Orthodoxy chooses to accept Mystery as a Holy thing.  Preferring the experience of perceiving the "uncreated" Light rather than objectivity. 
 

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JamesR said:
Explain why. No religion as far as I know has been able to explain why even though I have been perfectly open to receiving the answer. This is the problem; rationalism is the only heresy that the Church has not refuted yet.
How would you rationally explain the Trinity?
 

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Indiscriminate sex since the '70's is producing lots of illegitimate kids who are being raised by single parents who don't have the time or inclination for religion in an American society that since 1962 (+/-), when the illustrios Supreme Court took prayer out of the schools, and triggered the balance of American society to migrate to a belief that America requires "separation of church and state," even though the Constitution only precludes the state from establishing a state church/religion, and so impedes mention of God and the Judeo-Christian based morality that helped make American society great, is producing a society of Godless hedonists.

I'm not sure how this societal disease has likewise infected Europe, I suspect mimicking America and adoption of secular socialism could be at work.


P.S. No offense intended toward parents who are victims that has forced them into being single parents who dedicate themselves to properly raise their children in what is becoming a Godless society.
 

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Ashman618 said:
i remember being about 8-10 years old and telling my grandparents i was going to mass (I was raised Roman catholic) and instead i would just sit in a park under a pine tree day dreaming or what not, I cant even remember at this point.  I think i was simply just bored, how could God compare to TV and super Nintendo right? From there it doesn't take much to graduate to short uniform skirts marijuana and bee,r no?  Mix that with some internet porn and a nice salary and i'm my own little god, who needs Jesus Christ? sin? whats sin? how could i possibly miss the mark when i'm having such a great time!!!! Rules? obedience? temperance? chastity? don't you know who I AM!        
One of the biggest "aha!" moments in my life (and when I began to get serious about faith) was when a Lutheran pastor told me that sin wasn't "relevant" anymore. (Wait, what?) Because I had seen and experienced the misery and wreckage of sin in my own life, I knew that sin was indeed relevant, dangerous and real.
 

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JamesR said:
Cavaradossi said:
JamesR said:
Why can't you people just understand that in order for more people to believe in God, you need to try to make Him appealing to people with a rationalist mindset? This is why no one in the educated first world is accepting Him anymore.
Because the rationalist mindset is false and inimical to Christianity.
Explain why. No religion as far as I know has been able to explain why even though I have been perfectly open to receiving the answer. This is the problem; rationalism is the only heresy that the Church has not refuted yet.
The Church doesn't have to.  Rationalism refutes itself.


The big problems in the Vatican, and its Protestant and "Enlightened" spawn, stem from Scholasticism's embrace of rationalism.
 

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ialmisry said:
JamesR said:
Cavaradossi said:
JamesR said:
Why can't you people just understand that in order for more people to believe in God, you need to try to make Him appealing to people with a rationalist mindset? This is why no one in the educated first world is accepting Him anymore.
Because the rationalist mindset is false and inimical to Christianity.
Explain why. No religion as far as I know has been able to explain why even though I have been perfectly open to receiving the answer. This is the problem; rationalism is the only heresy that the Church has not refuted yet.
The Church doesn't have to.  Rationalism refutes itself.


The big problems in the Vatican, and its Protestant and "Enlightened" spawn, stem from Scholasticism's embrace of rationalism.
Woo woo! Hold on now come on let's be rational and think about this  :p
 

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ialmisry said:
JamesR said:
Cavaradossi said:
JamesR said:
Why can't you people just understand that in order for more people to believe in God, you need to try to make Him appealing to people with a rationalist mindset? This is why no one in the educated first world is accepting Him anymore.
Because the rationalist mindset is false and inimical to Christianity.
Explain why. No religion as far as I know has been able to explain why even though I have been perfectly open to receiving the answer. This is the problem; rationalism is the only heresy that the Church has not refuted yet.
The Church doesn't have to.  Rationalism refutes itself.


The big problems in the Vatican, and its Protestant and "Enlightened" spawn, stem from Scholasticism's embrace of rationalism.
Yikes!
 

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Cyrillic said:
Also they're raised in a liberal, relativistic spirit of "There's no truth, all opinions are valid".
1,000,000,000s of youtube comments say you are wrong.
 

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ialmisry said:
JamesR said:
Cavaradossi said:
JamesR said:
Why can't you people just understand that in order for more people to believe in God, you need to try to make Him appealing to people with a rationalist mindset? This is why no one in the educated first world is accepting Him anymore.
Because the rationalist mindset is false and inimical to Christianity.
Explain why. No religion as far as I know has been able to explain why even though I have been perfectly open to receiving the answer. This is the problem; rationalism is the only heresy that the Church has not refuted yet.
The Church doesn't have to.  Rationalism refutes itself.


The big problems in the Vatican, and its Protestant and "Enlightened" spawn, stem from Scholasticism's embrace of rationalism.
Exactly what is wrong with starting with revelation and using logic to deduce additional spiritual truths?  ???
 

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Cyrillic said:
Simple. Most of them can't imagine that something could limit their behavior. Also they're raised in a liberal, relativistic spirit of "There's no truth, all opinions are valid".
Well starting somewhere so illogical, no wonder. They should start with "There is no truth except that contained in this sentence"  :p
 

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Justin Kolodziej said:
Exactly what is wrong with starting with revelation and using logic to deduce additional spiritual truths?  ???
Ask Arius and Nestorius.

Holy scripture has a thing or two to say about this idea, too, like in 1 Corinthians 3:18-19:

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”
 

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I think one key reason (not the only one) is the complete dominance nowadays of empirical sciences as the foundation of truth, leaving very little room or freedom for philosophical discourse, and a corresponding inability of people raised in this mindset to comprehend myths or to grapple intelligently with the non-material aspects of life.

It hasn't helped that the various religions have generally not put forward a coherent or forceful counter-narrative, and in many cases have simply bowed to the status quo.
 

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dzheremi said:
Holy scripture has a thing or two to say about this idea, too, like in 1 Corinthians 3:18-19:

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”
OK. Now it's time for a quote war:

Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you...From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:22-28)
We all know how the Athenians tried to find God. Also, the "Men of Athens" bit sounds very familiar. It were one of the first words in Plato's Apology.
 

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Hahaha. I'm not going to get into a quote war with you (or anybody), Cyrillic. :) Particularly as I don't see how that quote contradicts the quote I provided. It is important to seek God -- the question is how to do it. Do we seek God by our own logic and intellect? I don't think so. Reason/logic can be a tool, of course, put to the proper service of God (e.g., apologetics), but I think it would go too far to say that we should use logic in order to "deduce additional spiritual truths", as the post I was replying to asked. There are no additional spiritual truths to be deduced, anyway. Everything is already with us in the holy Orthodox Church of God.
 
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