Are Millennials Leaving Religion Over LGBT Issues?

[03.13.2014]

The American religious landscape is evolving rapidly. During the last decade, the proportion of religiously unaffiliated Americans has more than doubled—21 percent identify as unaffiliated today, compared to eight percent in 2003. Millennials are three times more likely than the oldest generation to identify as religiously unaffiliated (32 percent vs. 10 percent).

031214.LeavingReligion 02 320x480 Are Millennials Leaving Religion Over LGBT Issues?

The fact that most Millennials who are now religiously unaffiliated were raised in a religious tradition raises important questions about the forces responsible for this recent shift. PRRI’s latest survey finds one reason for high rates of disaffiliation among Millennials is their perception about how religious institutions treat gay and lesbian people. Among Millennials who no longer identify with their childhood religion, nearly one-third say negative teachings about, or treatment of, gay and lesbian people was either a somewhat important (17 percent) or very important (14 percent) factor in their disaffiliation from religion. In contrast, fewer than 1-in-5 Baby Boomers (19 percent) and Silent Generation Americans (17 percent) who have disaffiliated report that this was a somewhat or very important reason for their leaving.

Moreover, the implications of religious institutions’ ideologies about, and treatment of, gay and lesbian people are viewed similarly by Millennials and Americans overall. Most Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues. Nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent) Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people, while roughly one-third (35 percent) disagree. Millennials remain most likely to believe that religious groups are alienating young people. Seven-in-ten (70 percent) Millennials believe that religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues. In contrast, only roughly 4-in-10 (43 percent) members of the Silent Generation believe that religious groups are alienating young people, while nearly as many (44 percent) disagree.

  • Tom Paine

    If “religious institutions” had uniform teachings, this would make sense. But there are plenty of churches out there that are not hostile to gay and lesbian people. Saying, “I am not going to church anymore because of their hostility to gay and lesbian people” is akin to saying, “I don’t eat seafood anymore, so I am not going to eat in any restaurant.”

  • BrotherRog

    I think that the official discriminatory stances and policies of certain denominations re: LGBTQI persons are indeed a major factor as to why many young people are wary of Christianity. Indeed, there’s hardly and disputing of this.

    That said, other factors that make popular American Christianity off-putting to young folks include their perceptions of hypocrisy in the Church; music that they don’t enjoy or relate to; too much disrespect toward other world religions; not enough visible work to and with the poor — and in reducing social injustice and poverty in the first place; and not enough emphasis on compassion and following the Way, teachings, and example of Jesus.

    Roger Wolsey, author, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity