Growing numbers of young people in the US are turning away from God. Is America doomed?
It’s official – secularism is on the rise in the US.
That’s right…according to a recent Pew poll, young people in God’s country are losing interest in organized religion. So what does this mean for America’s future? Are Americans doomed to suffer the consequences of moral degradation? When this new generation rises to power, will they place the faithful in chains and force them to recant their beliefs while looking down the barrel of a gun? Will God himself unlock the floodgates of Hell, cleansing the United States of the endless throngs of non-believers?
A vision of post-religious America? (Painting: Hieronymus Bosch)
Well, probably not. Some Americans, particularly evangelical Christians, are certainly worried about this development. But let’s take a look at the facts…
Among young “Millenials,” or people like me who were born between 1990 and 1996, only 39% pray daily. In a similar figure, only 38% of us feel that religion is important in our everyday lives. Pretty bleak, huh? Not quite…the Pew poll also reveals that 80% still believe in God, among which 50% believe with absolute certainty. Not exactly a scary picture of godlessness.
Nevertheless, the trend towards non-belief will likely continue with each new generation. The religious right in America, who are unabashed about their ambitions to crush secularism and establish the US as a Christian nation, will have a good reason to be uncomfortable in the coming years. But, despite their doom-ridden prognostications, they will be unlikely to face mass persecution or forced conversions. They will simply have a more difficult time regulating other people’s morals and passing intolerant laws.
Over on this side of the pond, the Scandinavian countries seem to be doing fine despite their high levels of secularism and non-belief. People of all religions continue to practice freely. According to the Legatum Institute’s recent report on prosperity, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden rank within the top 5 countries in terms of prosperity. The US ranks number 11. Not terrible, but hardly a hallmark of “the greatest country in the world.”
For secular people, Scandinavians sure like crosses (Photo: Wikimedia Commons – miguelb)
Without presuming too much, it seems fair to say that secularism in Scandinavia has, if anything, led to a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous society. Of course there are other factors involved. And of course the Scandinavian countries aren’t perfect. But Scandinavia seems to prove religious fundamentalists in America wrong when they attribute the US’s problems to declining religiosity. Ultimately, the outcome of this development remains to be seen.
Until then, God can rest easy knowing that a majority of 18-25 year-olds in America still believe in him.
(Cover photo: Wikimedia Commons – Timothy Valentine)