Survey: 43% of Millennials ‘Don’t Know, Care, or Believe God Exists’

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Younger Americans are reshaping the country with a philosophy of life that rejects faith in God and organized worship at the same time defining success and morality in terms of personal happiness and economic social justice, a survey from the Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University found.

The American Worldview Inventory (AWVI) 2021, an annual survey that examines the perspectives of adults aged 18 and over in the United States, found that while 57 percent of Millennials (born 1984-2002) consider themselves to be Christian, 43 percent “don’t know, care, or believe that God exists.”

Comparatively, 70 percent of Generation X (Gen X) Americans (born 1965-1983), 79 percent of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), and 83 percent of the Builder Generation (born 1927-1945) consider themselves to be Christian, while 31, 28, and 27 percent, respectively, “don’t know, care, or believe that God exists.”

According to the survey, only 48 percent of Millennials say one should “treat others as you want them to treat you,” compared to 53 percent of Gen Xers, 81 percent of Boomers, and 90 percent of Builders.

At the same time, 38 percent of Millennials agree with the statement “you try to get even with people who have wronged you,” while 33 percent of Gen Xers, 12 percent of Boomers, and 10 percent of Builders say the same.

“Gen X and the Millennials have solidified dramatic changes in the nation’s central beliefs and lifestyles,” said sociologist George Barna, CRC director of research. “The result is a culture in which core institutions, including churches, and basic ways of life are continually being radically redefined.”

Barna said the shift in America’s spiritual landscape started almost 60 years ago with progressive changes among Boomers, but that Millennials have aggressively cut ties with core biblical views and lifestyle values.

According to the survey, Millennials are “far more likely” than other generations to:

  • Define success in life as happiness, personal freedom, or productivity without oppression
  • Consider an abortion performed to reduce personal economic or emotional discomfort to be morally acceptable
  • Consider premarital sex with someone expected to be their future spouse to be morally acceptable
  • Deem reincarnation a real possibility
  • Be liberal regarding fiscal and social policies
  • Champion liberal theology
  • Be among the “Don’ts”—people who either do not know if God exists, do not believe that He exists, or do not care if He exists

Barna included in his summary of the worldview of Millennials, as presented in his research, their tendency to perceive expansion of government will facilitate a better life and that public programs and policies should have flexible boundaries.

In addition, the sociologist noted the survey suggests younger Americans are seeking “fewer formal marriages” and “the reduced appeal of raising children.”

U.S. Census Bureau data revealed in 2020 that 42 states and Washington, DC, have continued to see their birth rates decline.

Breitbart News reported in December 2019 the U.S. birth rate, overall, has dropped for the fourth consecutive year.

“In 2018, less than 3.8 million babies were born in the U.S. — a drop of two percent, or almost 64,000 births, since 2017,” Breitbart News noted.

Barna said in his comments:

The family unit and traditional family practices have been reshaped, with some long-term, fundamental family ideals and practices outlawed. The responsibilities of government have been significantly broadened and transformed. The influence of the Christian church has diminished while the influence of arts, entertainment, and news media has exploded. As millions of parents discovered during the pandemic, public schools have become indoctrination farms rather than places for teaching basic life skills.

He observed as well the frequent “inconsistency” between the rhetoric of Millennials and their actual behavior:

For example, Millennials champion the concept of tolerating different points of view. Yet we see in the research that their behaviors—such as promoting getting even, situational treatment of other people, or censoring specific viewpoints or policies—conflicts with their alleged embrace of tolerance and diversity. In fact, Millennials are twice as likely as older adults to specify that the people they respect are those who hold the same religious and political views as they do. The attitudinal and behavioral evidence related to a variety of beliefs and related behaviors suggests that they are not a tolerant generation despite their self-image and public promotion as such.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue said in comments about the research it is not surprising the researchers “found that millennials are the most likely age group to define success  as ‘happiness, personal freedom, or productivity without oppression.'”

“As such, they believe that it is perfectly fine to have an abortion if it is performed ‘to reduce personal economic or emotional discomfort,'” he added. “Their political leanings, the surveys found, are decidedly liberal.’

Barna said the survey results warn of a significant challenge for the future of Christian faith in America.

“If Christian churches, pastors, schools, and individuals believe that a biblical Christian faith is important—not just for themselves but also for our nation and the world beyond it—time is running out to aggressively and strategically act on that belief,” he cautioned, “before those who so vehemently disagree succeed in destroying the freedom and opportunity to preserve the ways of God.”

Donohue, describing the apparent worldview of many Millennials as “radical individualism,” asked, “How can society be expected to care for those in need? Having rejected the Mother Teresa model—it is the job of every individual to tend to the needy—there are only two choices left: do nothing or have the state provide for them.”

He continued:

The answer, for millennials, is the latter. The surveys disclose that they are the most likely to champion liberal “fiscal and social policies.” So while services for the needy will be provided, they will come from the state, leaving us completely unburdened, save for taxes. That way we can pursue happiness and comfort, the twin measures of our wellbeing.

According to CRC, the survey was conducted in February 2021 among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults, with an estimated maximum sampling error of approximately plus or minus 2 percentage points, based on the 95% confidence interval.

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