Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Decline in Religion in USA Is Accelerating.

Religion contemplates the best way forward.
Generational and Time Period Differences in American Adolescents’ Religious Orientation, 1966–2014 - PLOS ONE.

Despite the shrill histrionics that seem at times to swamp the social media and, at least in the USA by all accounts, the TV channels, with toe-curling religious fundamentalism, creating the impression that religion is not only strong but growing and becoming more fundamentalist, the facts are very different.

Survey after survey shows that religion is declining and that that decline is accelerating.

This survey is no exception and shows that, in the USA, the so-called millennials generation is the least religious in the last 60 years and probably the least religious generation in US history. They still have a long way to go to equal the wholesale rejection of religion now happening throughout Europe as evidenced by the massive rejection of Catholic dogma in the recent Irish referendum, but this is none-the-less impressive and augers well for the future. The survey was conducted by a team led by psychologist Jean M. Twenge of San Diego University, California, USA:

In four large, nationally representative surveys (N = 11.2 million), American adolescents and emerging adults in the 2010s (Millennials) were significantly less religious than previous generations (Boomers, Generation X) at the same age. The data are from the Monitoring the Future studies of 12th graders (1976–2013), 8th and 10th graders (1991–2013), and the American Freshman survey of entering college students (1966–2014). Although the majority of adolescents and emerging adults are still religiously involved, twice as many 12th graders and college students, and 20%–40% more 8th and 10th graders, never attend religious services. Twice as many 12th graders and entering college students in the 2010s (vs. the 1960s–70s) give their religious affiliation as “none,” as do 40%–50% more 8th and 10th graders. Recent birth cohorts report less approval of religious organizations, are less likely to say that religion is important in their lives, report being less spiritual, and spend less time praying or meditating. Thus, declines in religious orientation reach beyond affiliation to religious participation and religiosity, suggesting a movement toward secularism among a growing minority. The declines are larger among girls, Whites, lower-SES individuals, and in the Northeastern U.S., very small among Blacks, and non-existent among political conservatives. Religious affiliation is lower in years with more income inequality, higher median family income, higher materialism, more positive self-views, and lower social support. Overall, these results suggest that the lower religious orientation of Millennials is due to time period or generation, and not to age.*

The survey found that the number of adolescents attending religious services has declined sharply:

Percentage of American adolescents who never attend religious services, 1966–2013 (note: 1966 college data trimmed).
American adolescents are now less likely to attend religious services. Twice as many 12th graders in 2010–13 reported “never” attending services (21%) compared to 1976–79 (10%). Compared to the early 1970s (12%), more than twice as many college students in the 2010s never attended services (27%). Similar, though smaller, declines (23% and 43%) appear among 8th and 10th graders between the early 1990s and the 2010s. Across all groups, the shift is most pronounced after 2000 as Millennials enter the samples, with the number not attending services increasing 50% for 12th graders (from 14% to 21%), 33% for 10th graders (15% to 20%), and 31% for 8th graders (13% to 17%) between 2000 and 2013. The percentage attending services weekly has also declined steadily; while 40% of 12th graders did so in 1976–79, only 30% did in 2010–13... For 10th and 12th graders, almost all of the decline in religious service attendance (d’s = -.13 and-.14) occurred between 2000 and 2013.*

A similar decline was found in self-identified religious affiliation and, significantly, the gap between adolescent affiliation and parental affiliation has widened. Children are increasingly making their own decisions and are becoming less inclined to simply follow their parents. This independence of thought and willingness to question and change is a prerequisite to a more profound shift from non-affiliation to non-belief. The road to deconversion begins with questioning received beliefs.

Percentage of American adolescents endorsing “none” for religious affiliation, 1966–2014.
More than twice as many recent 12th graders chose “none” for their religious affiliation compared to the 1960s and 1970s, though the majority still choose a religious affiliation (see Fig 2). Thirty-eight percent more 8th graders and 53% more 10th graders chose “none” as their religious preference in 2010–13 compared to 1991–94. The increase in religious “nones” was especially steep over the last decade. Between 2000 and 2010–13, 31% more 8th graders (13% compared to 17%) professed no religious affiliation, as did 43% more 10th graders (14% to 20%) and 50% more 12th graders (16% to 24%). Three times as many college students in the 2010s (vs. the late 1960s) reported no religious affiliation, though the majority are still affiliated. In just the 13 years between 2000 and 2013, 87% more college students chose no religious affiliation (15% vs. 28%). Compared to the early 1970s, four times as many reported that their mother had no religious affiliation, and more than twice as many reported that their father had no religious affiliation. The gap between students’ affiliation and parents’ affiliation has grown...; this suggests both that more students grew up without religion and that more are abandoning their parents’ religion by college entry.*

The third significant finding was a similar decline in the perceived importance of religion in the lives of those surveyed. Consistent with the decline in attendance at religious service and rejection of organised religions indicated by disaffiliation, young people are viewing religion as much less important to them than it was to their parents. Clearly, religions have failed to keep up with changing values in America's youth and, freed from the need to conform to the in-group dogmas in order to retain affiliation and group identity, young Americans have formed their own opinions and found religious dogma wanting.

Society is going whence religions are unable to follow because to follow means abandoning the defining dogmas of the religion. The overwhelming support for homosexual freedom, same-sex marriage and full female emancipation amongst young people contrasted with the implacable and near-hysterical opposition to them of most churches, is symptomatic of these changes and of the church's inability to follow.

The emotional shackles that once bound people to the teachings and diktats of the church's have been stretched to breaking point. It no longer works to demonise an out-group such as homosexuals or divorcees in order to increase group cohesion of the in-group. What was once the in-group now sees this as hate for hate's sake and a hypocritical dehumanisation of people who, as full human beings, are entitled to the same rights as anyone else.

Percentage of American adolescents who say that religion is “not important” in their lives (low religiosity), 1976–2013.
Compared to those in the 1970s, 12th graders in the 2010s are less likely to say that they believe that churches and religious organizations are doing a good job, less likely to say that they should have more influence, and less likely to donate to religious organizations... The decline in charitable donations is steeper for religious organizations than for other causes... Entering college students in the 2010s were about half as likely as those in the late 1960s to say that they planned to enter the clergy (though this finding should be interpreted with caution given the low base rate). Differences in discussing religion were curvilinear, with fewer doing so during the late 1980s and 1990s, and few differences between the 1960s and the 2010s. Entering college students are now less likely to consider themselves above average in spirituality and less likely to pray or meditate... This suggests that recent generations of young Americans are less spiritual than their predecessors.

Adolescents in the 2010s, especially 12th graders, were less likely to say that religion is important in their lives (see Table 1 and Fig 3). In 2010–13, 22% said religion was “not important,” compared to 12% in 1976–79. Thus, although most still say that religion is at least somewhat important, 75% more 12th graders said religion was “not important” to them. Much of this change occurred between 2000 and 2013, with those saying that religion was not important increasing 57% for 12th graders (from 14% to 22%), 43% for 10th graders (14% to 20%), and 36% for 8th graders (11% to 15%). Most of the mean changes in the importance of religion in life for 10th and 12th graders (d’s = -16 and-.19) occurred after 2000.*

The final conclusion should strike fear in the minds of those now making their living selling false hope and phony 'cures' to superstitious people. They've been rumbled. The cat has been let out of the bag; religions are harmful, hateful, divisive, self-serving and ultimately irrelevant. People don't need 'God' to be good and can live rewarding lives without religion, free from the fear and superstitions that kept previous generations cowed, compliant and willing participants in their own repression and exploitation.

In conclusion, survey results from 11.2 million American adolescents demonstrate a decline in religious orientation, especially after 2000. The trend appears among adolescents as young as 13 and suggests that Millennials are markedly less religious than Boomers and GenX’ers were at the same age. The majority are still religious, but a growing minority seem to embrace secularism, with the changes extending to spirituality and the importance of religion as well. Correlational analyses show that this decline occurred at the same time as increases in individualism and declines in social support. Clearly, this is a time of dramatic change in the religious landscape of the United States.*

As Dan Barker's formerly devoutly fundamentalist Christian mother remarked a few weeks after he came out to her as an Atheist, when she realised that non-belief was a option, "When you think about it, this religion thing is a lot of baloney, isn't it!". The youth of America today have realised, just like the youth of Europe did a generation earlier, that non-belief is an option.

Copyright: © 2015 Twenge et al. Published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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