Young Americans are also less spiritual

by on September 6, 2017 at 1:14 pm in Books, Religion | Permalink

Another common narrative about trends in American religious belief says that spirituality has replaced religion. …That might have been true at one time, but no longer.  iGen’ers are actually less spiritual as well as being less religious.  iGen’ers and late Millennials ages 18 to 24 are the least likely of all age/generation groups to say they are a “spiritual person,” showing a pronounced break even with older Millennials in their late twenties and early thirties…

Of course, these differences could be due to age instead of generation; perhaps younger people have always been less spiritual.  However, slightly fewer 18- to 24-year-olds in 2014-2016 (48%) described themselves as a moderately or very spiritual person than in 2006-2008 (56%).

That is from the new and excellent Jean M. Twenge, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.

1 Chip September 6, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Depends how you define spiritual. Here’s the dictionary:

“of or relating to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature:”

Replace spirit with EQ or deep emotional understanding of the world as you see it, and I suspect not much has changed at all.

If anything, young people may be the most ‘spiritual’ generation in a century, with 70-80% now preferring socialism and voting for Bernie Sanders.

Has a generation’s perception of the world ever been more divorced from the physical nature of that world?

2 EverExtruder September 6, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Replace “less” with “replaced” and “spiritual and religious” with “politics”. iGen’ers have replaced spiritualism and religion with politics and they’ll howl in 20 years when they feel strangely unfulfilled.

3 chuck martel September 6, 2017 at 2:24 pm

There’s some connection between “spirituality”, socialism and Bernie Sanders?

4 Chip September 6, 2017 at 2:28 pm

I just googled “Bernie Sanders supporters” and selected images. I laughed.

They’re all carrying placards saying “A future to believe in.”

You just have to believe.

5 dearieme September 6, 2017 at 5:01 pm

Shut up you cuck

6 Anonymous September 6, 2017 at 6:51 pm

Has a generation’s perception of the world ever been more divorced from the physical nature of that world?

As opposed to “conservatives” who now prefer to be Russian stooges?

https://www.justsecurity.org/44697/steele-dossier-knowing/

or even just

https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/09/information-operations-update/

Really guys, this is not even the pot calling the kettle black. You are the pot calling sunlight black.

7 ☪ ☮ e ✡ i ☯ s ✝ September 6, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Was “spiritual not religious” ever really a thing? Or was it something nonreligious people said in a more religious age?

8 JonFraz September 6, 2017 at 1:41 pm

“Spiritual but not religious” generally refers to people who are unchurched, but who have some vague, Deist belief in God (or maybe Goddess) and an equally vague belief in an afterlife of some sort, and who may have some New Age superstitions as well.

9 ☪ ☮ e ✡ i ☯ s ✝ September 6, 2017 at 1:59 pm

I remember it as a New Age thing, but almost more a gag than a real thing. The “☮” in the “☪ ☮ e ✡ i ☯ s ✝.”

Perhaps unchurched deists do identity as “spiritual” ..

10 y81 September 6, 2017 at 2:01 pm

That’s a good definition, and, by that definition, I suspect that young people are just as spiritual as ever. Certainly one doesn’t encounter many militant atheists among any age group. Asking about specific beliefs, of the nature enumerated by JonFraz, would yield a better measure than simply asking people if they are “spiritual,” which may reflect nothing more than the cyclic fashionability of a particular word.

11 Lothrop Stoddard September 6, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Considering the popularity of belief in ghosts, I’d say yes, it is a real thing.

12 Butler T. Reynolds September 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm

“spiritual, but not religious” and “…don’t follow organized religion” are things we non-believers say when they have religious family, friends, and neighbors that they don’t want to scare off. It doesn’t help when so many atheists act like a-holes.

The more common non-belief becomes, the less one has to tap dance around the issue.

13 Anonymous Coward September 7, 2017 at 11:57 am

Exactly this. Until the day comes when I can reveal my lack of belief without fear of ostracism, SBNR is the preferred phrase to dodge questioning. Think of it as the equivalent of “confirmed bachelor” from a generation ago.

14 Alex September 6, 2017 at 2:56 pm

Is Gen Z is more narcissistic–not in a pejorative way, but in the sense of NPD?

Religion is correlated with various positive psychological traits. Conscientiousness, agreeableness, lower neuroticism. Are they going down.

Even knowing whether they plan to have fewer kids would be nice, although nobody is going to do that survey. Atheists don’t have kids because they’re hedonists who only care about the present and the current generation.

It would also be nice to know when Gen Z begins. Anywhere between 1995 and 1998 is a decent guess. Is 2000 possible?

15 Alex September 6, 2017 at 4:06 pm
16 Hua Wei September 6, 2017 at 6:12 pm

“Atheists don’t have kids because they’re hedonists who only care about the present and the current generation.”
Quite the opposite, we really look forward to you cavemen going out.

17 The Lunatic September 6, 2017 at 11:23 pm

“Spiritual but not religious” doesn’t correlate to the positive traits that religious does. Religions have a lot of positive things that are unrelated to being “spiritual” — like communities, or defined ethical standards that encourage self-examination.

“Spiritual but not religious” is the true faith of hedonistic self-indulgence, where you can get all the atomization and moral rootlessness that are the worst aspects of the atheist community, combined with all the smug self-assurance and insulation from reality that are the worst aspects of religious communities.

18 Hua Wei September 6, 2017 at 11:36 pm

“like communities, or defined ethical standards that encourage self-examination.”

Yep, Voodoo is great for self-examination. Any Voodoo will do. How would one self-examinate his actions and ideas without believing God sends hurricanes because of the gays or Zeus makes the Tiber flood everything because Christians are not worshipping the gods. Voodoo is clealy the way to go for moral roots.

19 Student September 7, 2017 at 1:33 am

Well that’s just a silly way to look at things. God doesn’t play cosmic chess and just because some yahoo says he does doesn’t make it true.

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God as a magician, with a magic wand doing everything. But that is not so, He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that He gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.” – Pope Francis

Chill buddy.

20 Hua Wei September 7, 2017 at 8:48 am

Francis is a Communist. Ask good Christains like Ann Coulter and Limbaugh, who know exctly what God wants for America and how many hurricanes He will give America if she does not vote Republican.

21 Some Other Tom (I Forget Which) September 6, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Obviously self-identification is important, but this is a particular area where I wonder just how much specific practices and beliefs have changed.

22 nonesuch September 6, 2017 at 3:05 pm

meaningless claim without comparing to analogous age cohort in previous generations

23 jseliger September 6, 2017 at 3:48 pm

I liked it, while at the same time I couldn’t help but think about the many things said about my generation when I was a teenager; today most of my friends and acquaintances work boring office jobs, seemingly much like the generation before and the generation before that.

24 msgkings September 6, 2017 at 4:14 pm

This. The sociology of generations is fun but not very meaningful.

25 rayward September 6, 2017 at 4:34 pm

Young people today. And yesterday. And tomorrow. My generation had what were called “transistor radios” stuck to our ears. For today’s youth it’s the smart phone. An eccentric walks his dog through my community while he listens to a transistor radio (the eccentric not the dog). Where he got the thing I don’t know. My female friend thinks he is sexy (the eccentric not the dog). Some young people never grow up (my female friend not the eccentric, or the dog).

26 Student September 6, 2017 at 10:17 pm

I am with you rayward… even if you are being a bit eccentric yourself. Haha.

27 wayward son September 6, 2017 at 11:09 pm

An eccentric walks his dog through the community (mine not the eccentric’s) while he listens to a transistor radio (the eccentric not the dog). Where he got the thing I don’t know (the dog not the radio). My female friend-with-benefits thinks he is sexy (the UPS driver who almost ran him over, not the eccentric). Some young people never grow up (my daughter not the eccentric, or his radio).

28 Tim September 6, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Didn’t Facebook invent “Spiritual but not religious” as a hedge for its users? Most athiests I knew selected this in the Facebook drop down list so as not to alienate themselves. Spiritual never meant anything.

29 Moo cow September 6, 2017 at 6:11 pm

Or did it come from the 12 Step movement? Spiritual not religious. Your “higher power” doesn’t need to be an old man in a robe exhorting you not to eat shellfish.

That would date it from the 40s.

30 celestus September 6, 2017 at 7:35 pm

“Higher power” language goes back at least to the Freemasons.

31 Student September 6, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Young people. What you gonna do. I was that young not to long ago and I also liked to throw off everything such that I could do drugs, get wasted, tap random chicks and self-justify with myself that was good for me. But then I realized I was out of control. Every generation does this. It’s kind of a part of growing up.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/10/teenage-brains/dobbs-text

Pretty good but I’d say it extends to like 27 or a few years after you have kids, which ever comes last.

32 Hua Wei September 6, 2017 at 11:41 pm

Just take a Voodoo, any Voodoo is good as long as one avoids doing drugs, getting wasted, tapping random chicks. Is not like we are talking about things preople believe about the nature of reality. I wonder if it is possible to avoid harmful things without any Voodoo.

33 Student September 7, 2017 at 12:37 am

Voodoo is in the eye of rhe beholder now isn’t it? For some it’s everything coming from
nothing. For others it’s religious faith. For others, they have experienced something they can’t explain. For others it’s both of the latter mixed together. I’d put myself in that camp. But you won’t buy it (I wouldn’t either) so no harm no foul.

Just live and let live as far is I see it.

With respect to me… I buy what Jesus said because I find no fault in him. I also kinda agree with Tertulian…

“It is credible because it is foolish”
The incarnation and resurrection is to be believed because it is to rediculous for someone to have made up.

To others not so much. But when you have imperfect info telling you so and you have experienced things that only personally could be experienced… it leads you one way.

Peace to you though.

No hard feelings.

34 Hua Wei September 7, 2017 at 8:49 am

It may be predestinarion or not. Or reincarnarion. Or Mohammed fying in a winged mule Who caees as long is a pleasing Voodoo?

35 Sam the Sham September 7, 2017 at 11:19 am

Hua Wei, do you have an explanation for free will and/or objective morality that doesn’t involve the supernatural? Do you scoff equally at people who believe their choices matter, or at people who think that morality is objective?

You seem confused and angry, trying to figure out what your line of thinking is.

36 Evans_KY September 6, 2017 at 10:32 pm

Much of organized religion in the US has become its own worst enemy. Pedantic and exclusive.

“I honestly believe that being uncomfortable is a great deterrent of the church in our generation—that, for whatever reason, we have elevated the majority’s comfort over justice. The truth is, those days are behind us. If we are unwilling to stand by our friends on the margins, then we have no business being leaders.”
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/jen-hat-maker-of-mess-and-moxie-politics/536808/

37 Max September 7, 2017 at 10:13 am

Well, they replace spirituality & religion with a worship of the political party. At least, when we consider what people write in blogs/facebook & news outlets. In general, I have seen this trend to emotionalized politics not only in the US but also in Europe.
I dont want to draw any moral judgment from this trend.

38 Edward Burke September 7, 2017 at 12:49 pm

True or false: Millennials are less “spiritual and religious” as a cohort because compared to other recent cohorts Millennials are less literate (as measured by attainment of reading skill and ability and/or by the amount of time devoted to reading monographs or works of fiction OFFLINE).

Impaired literary imagination will impose its costs eventually.

Not only might Millennial cognition already have been impaired–the cohort’s capacity for imagination most likely has been impaired by virtue of its being robbed of opportunities to exercise imagination in an era where “imaginary detail” is generated gratuitously by CGI production values.

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