Around half of Americans think that it would be a good thing if religion played a bigger role in modern society. This rather unexpected conclusion was reached after the Pew Research Center conducted a vast and multi-faceted survey of over 30,000 Christians in 27 separate countries.
Isn’t religious observance declining in America?
The results contrast with many research-based assertions that would claim religion is dying in America. Indeed, on a spiritual level, the figures have appeared pretty damning.
In the 2018 “American Family Survey” conducted by Deseret News and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, it was discovered that just 43 percent of Americans viewed religion as a core component of their identity.
In addition, the study noted a marked increase in those choosing to reject religion in exchange for atheism, agnosticism, or nothing at all — a group commonly referred to as “nones.”
In this latest study, however, some 51 percent of Americans surveyed desire a resurgence of religion in civic society. According to Pew, this is becoming an increasingly prevalent trend across the globe.
“Around the world, more favor an increased role for religion in their countries than oppose it,” the study noted.
Is something shifting?
While these numbers appear to be encouraging, when the data is broken down, there are still many concerning trends to address. The most prominent of these is the age gap issue. Pew found that it is almost exclusively older adults who are more supportive of religion playing a more prominent role in our society.
For young people, millennials in particular, the picture was a very different one indeed.
Regarding the lack of support shown by younger people for faith to have a more prominent role in society, there were “gaps of 19 and 22 percentage points, respectively, between those ages 18 to 29 and those 50 and older,” Pew noted.
The rise of young “nones”
Naturally, as we see the “nones” category begin to burgeon among the younger demographic, we must assume that their desire for religion in the public square is likely to also decline.
Unfortunately, this is happening at quite a rapid rate.
According to last year’s American Family Survey, among Millennials and even GenXers, the most common religion is, well, nothing — 44 percent of the 18–29 age group fell into the “nones” category, along with 43 percent of those 30–44.
Why are there so many young people with no faith?
That’s a good question — and Pew has done a study on it. Last year, they asked some 1,300 self-identified “nones” why they refuse to identify with a particular position of faith.
The most commonly cited reason? Their questioning of religious texts and teachings.
“Six-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Americans – adults who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’ – say the questioning of religious teachings is a very important reason for their lack of affiliation,” Pew explained.
A call to study and engage
With an increasing number of young people rejecting faith due to their skepticism over religious teachings, it is imperative that young Christians are well-equipped to provide some accurate answers on hot-button topics.
The Scriptures tell us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15), and we must heed this advice diligently now more than ever.
Apologetics, theological study and simply reading the Bible more regularly will help us become more confident to engage with people who are questioning the central tenets of the Christian faith which are found within the Scriptures.
Let’s not look at these numbers with hopelessness, but instead vow to engage with those who are uncertain over what they believe — and remember, always do this with “gentleness and respect,” as the Bible instructs.