A new study finds that 43% of millennials “don’t know, don’t care, don’t believe” God exists. By contrast, only 28% of baby boomers identified with that statement, an increase of 15% in two generations.
Further, only 26% of Generation X and 16% of millennials believe that at death they will go to Heaven as a result of confessing their sins and accepting Christ as savior, compared with nearly half of baby boomers, The Christian Post reports.
Americans younger than 55 are also far more likely to distrust the Bible and to believe God is uninvolved in people’s lives.
The survey of the philosophy of life on American adults, American Worldview Inventory 2021, from Arizona Christian University, assessed four generations: millennials (born 1984-2002), Generation X (1965-1983), baby boomers (1946-1964) and builders (1927-1945).
The generational drift away from Christianity is also showing up in social values. Whereas 90% of builders believe in Christ’s teaching to treat others as you yourself want to be treated, only half of millennials agree with “the Golden Rule.”
The departure from Christian precepts has also seen a replacement with superstition, Eastern, and Marxist beliefs. Younger Americans were more likely to consult horoscopes as a form of guidance, believe in Karma, and view owning property as contributing to economic injustice.
Nevertheless, a majority of all Americans across all generations identify as Christian. For millennials that number is 57%, compared with 83% of builders.
The American World Inventory also identified other value changes, such as religious pluralism, confirming an earlier Barna study of young adults agree “many religions can lead to eternal life,” compared with 58% in 2018.
Further demonstrating the speed of the shift, whereas 25% of teens in 2018 said they “strongly agree” that what is “morally right and wrong changes over time, based on society,” only three years later, 31% of teens embrace this moral relativism.
The researchers expressed concern that the beliefs and behaviors of younger Americans, especially millennials, “threaten to reshape the nation’s religious parameters beyond recognition.”
Jacob Bland, the incoming president and CEO of Youth for Christ, however, is more optimistic. Speaking with the Christian Post, he said, “it’s also a generation that’s on a quest to uncover what’s good, who can be trusted, and what, exactly, is love. In essence, it’s a generation craving the kind of hope found only in Jesus Christ.”
“Teens today are facing crises like never before, but it’s often in the darkness that light shines the brightest,” he said. “To enter into a disciple-making relationship where you’re introducing a kid to an unconditional love that maybe they’ve never even considered, showing them the goodness and love modeled in Jesus — there’s a lot of hope in that.”
Bland hopes to see 200,000 volunteers take up the challenge to come alongside young people to show them the love of Christ and how to walk in faith through both adversity and good times, as well as to answer their questions. That is the number necessary to meet the ministry’s goals to see one million eleven- to nineteen-year-olds per year engage with a YFC leader in an authentic relationship that centers on Christ.
“2020 was tough on young people,” said Bland, who takes over as president and CEO of Young Life on June 1. “The kids we work with have been disproportionately impacted. We’re seeing an increase in teen depression, self-harm, teen suicide — it’s undeniable.”
The same yesterday, today, and forever, “Jesus has a way of being new and fresh for the circumstances of today, and He is certainly doing that,” Bland says.
See related: New studies counter assumptions on family size, church communities, March 16, 2021