Data Shows Millennial Youth Are Less Religious

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

(Alex Emanuel Koch/Shutterstock)

The collision of traditional values and the embrace of change—this is America's narrative in the 21st century.

The United States is one of the nations that most frequently self identifies as deeply religious. Our politics are full of invoked prayer and the hope of blessings from god, and there are emotional debates over traditional family values. Our professional athletes constantly thank god for their success.

But this same nation is pulling away from religious traditions. America's youth are neither faithful nor deeply religious in practice.

The millennials, those born between 1981 and 2000, are driving this change, according to a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study. Millennials are less likely to embrace the traditions of their parents and 1 in 4 claim no affiliation at all. This group openly declares atheism, or no belief when asked—and that's just the beginning.

Dante Chinni is the director of the American Communities Project. He joins The Takeaway to parse through the data on millennials and their relationship with religion, and to kick off our series "Young Nation Under God?"

Join The Takeaway for a live online chat on religion this Friday at 2:00 PM Eastern. Visit to participate in a discussion about the role of faith in America with our host John Hockenberry and Lisa Pearce, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina.


Dante Chinni

Produced by:

Megan Quellhorst


T.J. Raphael

Comments [10]

Rob from Florida

I am glad to see this discussion on the growing atheist movement in America. The information age is allowing people to take a look at their religious beliefs and ask the hard questions. Who wrote the bible? Who is God? What does science say about the miracle clams in the bible? Those that care about knowing if what they believe is true will be able to take the answers.

Oct. 17 2013 11:48 AM
Kaitlin from New York, NY

I was raised in a large, devout Catholic family. I attended 12 years of Catholic school, my family went to mass every sunday and - for a time - confession every month. Like most of my peers I went to college and religion was put on the back burner. Now, at 24 and living across the country from my family, I wish I could feel that connection to a faith community again however it is simply not possible to be a good Catholic and to believe in the equality of people. I know my lack of participation in the church upsets my parent but I don't think they know how much it hurts me, as well.

Oct. 16 2013 03:40 PM
Jan from Indianapolis

My faith journey began in the Lutheran Church has flirted with Catholicism, taken me into Unitarian-Universalism, Earth-centered Spirituality back to U-U then to a UCC Seminary. Did Comparative Religious Studies on my own and read widely in all religious texts. Found Joseph Campbell, modern physics theories: chaos, string, etc.

As a psych/ soc. major in college I have always been fascinated with religion/ theology.
Today I consider myself a 21st Century spiritual being having a physical experience. I'm strongly informed by the revelations of science not Bronze-Age religious writings.

My 'beliefs' continue to evolve as my life moves forward.

Oct. 16 2013 02:36 PM
Elliott from Brooklyn

I'm one of those Jews who has completely lost his religion but still strongly identifies as a Jew. In my case, my great great grandfather was Hasidic. Here I explain how I went from Hasidic to unaffiliated in five tidy generational steps:

Oct. 16 2013 11:15 AM
Lack of Education

I was taught the "Belief" system and the "Knowledge" system, as well as, the Square of Opposition. If one is knowledgeable about Logic and Philosophy, then they know that Religion was made up to help people deal with their fears. Now science can explain most things to people, so "going to church" is a SOCIAL event, solely.
The belief system is totally a PRIVATE situation that belongs in one's home or church but NOT in the public square.
Please read up on some Philosophy, which is at the root of all knowledge.

Oct. 15 2013 04:09 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I will never give up Chinatown!

I am a cultural Jew. I would be a religious Jew if I could drive down to my favorite diner and eat a bacon cheeseburger on the Sabbath.
My rules of ethical behavior will never get over the kinds of food regulations my people place on me.
In other Jewish matters,when I was a kid,my fourth grade Rabbi told me and the class that,"You are the last straw that broke the camel's back."
I told him,"I might have been the last straw, but there were a lot of other straws before me."
They sent me to the Principle's office...again."

I am super happy with just being a cultural Jew, and I of course feel guilty about it.

Oct. 15 2013 12:51 PM
Linda from Moorestown, NJ

I get mad at myself that I shy away from stating that I have no religion, yet am tolerant, openminded and believe that "we are all in this together." Being part of an organized religion is not necessary to embrace morals and have strong beliefs. We've received comments such as how "nice" our children are -- what church do we belong to? Time to start discussing and accepting those who are agnostics and atheists !

Oct. 15 2013 12:28 PM

Agree with Mike from Westchester. Would really appreciate LESS news coverage of anything about religion. Seems the less we ARE religious, the more we have to hear about it.

Oct. 15 2013 10:46 AM
Mike from Westchester

Glad to see this. It's a trend that is good for peace and tolerance.

I look forward to the day when a politician can admit to atheism without committing political suicide. I also look forward to the day (which may come later than the former) when society regards the strictly religious in much the same way that we currently regard astrologers and psychics.

Oct. 15 2013 09:52 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Many young people don't affiliate with a religion, but believe in God and pray, etc., still.

Of course we're in a society that preaches atheism and barely tolerates religion, which is a trend it's followed for 50 years, and society has a large effect on young people, so it is a surprise?

Oct. 15 2013 09:15 AM

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