Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Millennials less likely to believe in biblical God

Vol. 35 No. 5 June/July 2018
Religious affiliation comparison                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Much of the latest news based on religious polling shows that, as a society, Americans are rejecting religion more and more, especially the younger generations.

Still, a large majority of Americans says it believes in God or a higher power. However, those in the Millennial generation are much less likely to say they believe in the God as described in the bible than the older generations.

Only 43 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 say they believe in God, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Almost an equal share, 39 percent, say they believe in some other higher power or spiritual force.

By contrast, about two-thirds of those over the age of 50 say they believe in the biblical God, while a little more than a quarter say they believe in a spiritual force other than God.

Only about 1 in 20 older Americans does not believe in a God or higher power, while 16 percent of the youngest cohorts say they do not believe.

Younger Americans are also less likely to attend church services on a regular basis, according to another Pew survey conducted in 2017. Among those who said they attended church services at least once a week, just 17 percent were between the ages of 18 and 29. More than half, 52 percent, were over the age of 50.

Evangelicals against same-sex marriage

Opposition to same-sex marriage is now limited almost entirely to white conservative Christians. White evangelical Christians are one of the few groups for which a majority remains in opposition.

The Public Religion Research Institute’s 2017 American Values Atlas showed growing support for LGBT rights, including a majority of U.S. Muslims backing same-sex marriage for the first time. Muslims, by a margin of 51 percent to 34 percent, favor same-sex marriage.

Fifty-eight percent of white evangelical Christians and 53 percent of Mormons — an overwhelming majority of whom are white — are opposed to allowing gay couples to marry.

The denomination with the most opposition, though, is Jehovah’s Witnesses, a group which is 36 percent white, 32 percent Hispanic and 27 percent black. Just 13 percent support the right.

As a whole, 63 percent of Americans now back allowing same-sex couples to marry, up from 52 percent four years ago.

All major racial groups now have a majority in favor. Republicans, though, remain opposed at 51 percent.

Church attendance down for Catholics

Weekly church attendance among Catholics in the United States has been on a steep and steady decline over the past decade, according to Gallup’s polling results.

Gallup’s data found an average of 39 percent of Catholics reported attending church within the past seven days between 2014 and 2017, compared with 45 percent from 2005 to 2008.

Within the same period of time, weekly church attendance among Protestants — defined by Gallup as people who identify as Christian, Protestant or any specific Protestant faith — remained relatively unchanged, declining by about 1 point to 45 percent.

The largest decrease in weekly church attendance among Catholics occurred between the 1950s and 1970s, when it fell from nearly 75 percent to less than 50 percent.

“In particular, older Catholics have become less likely to report attending church in the past seven days -— so that now, for the first time, a majority of Catholics in no generational group attend weekly,” Gallup said.

Young people — between the ages of 21 and 29 — remain the least likely to attend church weekly in either group at 25 percent among Catholics and 36 percent among Protestants.

Protestants in sharp decline in U.S.

The nation’s religious makeup has shifted dramatically in the past 15 years, with a sharp drop in the number of Americans who say they’re members of a Protestant denomination — still the nation’s most prevalent religious group — and a rise in the number who profess no religion.

On average last year, 36 percent of Americans in ABC News/Washington Post polls identified themselves as members of a Protestant faith, extending a gradual trend down from 50 percent in 2003. That includes an 8-point drop in the number of evangelical white Protestants.

Reflecting the change among Protestants, the share of Christians overall has declined from 83 percent of the adult population in 2003 to 72 percent on average in 2017. In the same time, the number of Americans who say they have no religion has nearly doubled, to 21 percent.

Results correspond with other research. The Public Religion Research Institute found that 24 percent of Americans identified as “atheist,” “agnostic” or “nothing in particular” in 2017, up from 14 percent in 2004.