In this week’s installment of “Figuring Faith,” Dr. Robert P. Jones explores the high levels of religious disaffiliation among younger Millennials (age 18-24). The 2012 Millennial Values survey showed that significant numbers of Millennials are leaving their childhood religions to identify as religiously unaffiliated, a shift that has profound implications for clergy and churches. There are also clues to some of the factors that may be driving the movement away from Christianity. Millennials are ambivalent about modern-day Christianity, with strong majorities of Christian (58%) and religiously unaffiliated (79%) Millennials agreeing that Christianity is “anti-gay.” Dr. Jones explains:
Of those who are currently unaffiliated, around 1-in-5 were raised white mainline Protestant (21 percent) or Catholic (23 percent), the two denominations that saw the largest net losses due to Millennials’ shifts in religious identity. Among Millennials who were raised white mainline Protestant, only 59 percent continue to identify with their childhood faith, while nearly 3-in-10 (29 percent) identify as unaffiliated. Similarly, only two-thirds (64 percent) of Millennials who were raised Catholic remain within the fold, while one-quarter (25 percent) now identify as unaffiliated…
The survey also offers some clues to why many Millennials are breaking away from their childhood faith, at least if they come from a Christian tradition. Younger Millennials’ feelings about Christianity are decidedly mixed. Three-quarters (76 percent) agree that present-day Christianity has “good values and principles,” and 63 percent believe that Christianity “consistently shows love for other people.” On the other hand, strong majorities also agree that modern-day Christianity is “hypocritical” (58 percent), “judgmental” (62 percent), and “anti-gay” (64 percent).
To read the full column, head to “Figuring Faith,” Dr. Jones’ blog at the Washington Post.