Saturday, 19 December 2015

Happy Christmas - And No Religion Too

Millennials: Christmas more cultural than religious | Pew Research Center

The 'Millennials' in America have been increasingly rejecting mainstream religion and becoming more atheistic for some time now as shown in a Pew Center survey just a few weeks ago.

Now the Pew Research Centre has published a 2013 survey that shows how, rather than rejecting that quintessentially Christian festival, Christmas, Millennials are secularising it and turning it into a cultural celebration rather than a religious one. As a cultural event, Christmas is becoming an inclusive festival rather than an exclusive one that cynically increases in-group cohesion by automatically excludes religious minorities.

While 90% of Millennials say they celebrate Christmas, only 40% regard it mainly as a religious festival. Not surprisingly, in this group, the proportion of those believing that the birth of Jesus was a virgin birth is lower than in other groups even though this still seems high by European standards, at 68%. 26% don't believe in the virgin birth - the highest for any group.

43% of Millennials regard Christmas as a cultural event - more than regard it as a religious event - in contrast to the Baby Boomers, of whom more than twice as many (56%) see Christmas as more religious than cultural (26%).

Millennials are more likely (49%) to not attend a religious service than Baby Boomers (41%). This is consistent with earlier surveys showing that religion is much less important to Millennials than to other groups.

But of all the cultural trappings of Christmas, these are embraced by Millennials just as enthusiastically as by other groups and even more so in same cases. They plan to exchange gifts (91% - the highest of any group), have family gatherings, decorate their homes with a tree (81% - Baby Boomers 77%) and go carol singing. The only thing they plan to do less of is sending cards.

So, along with other strong indicators which are emerging in the USA, the picture is of a culture which is becoming less religious and more secular, and so more inclusive over time and most strongly in the generation which will be raising the next generation of Americans. This group is also showing that a culture can embrace a major festival of caring, sharing and goodwill without a religious motive and that secular Humanism is at least as good a basis for good fellowship as is religion, without the overt exclusion that a religious festival entails and which is probably its main attraction for members of the dominant religion.

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