Pope Francis (Evandro Inetti / Zuma Press / TNS)
Clark Magnet High School

Being religious is no longer a trend for teens, research shows

According to Barna.com, Generation Z (people born between 1999 and 2015) are the “first truly ‘post-Christian’ generation.” In fact, the number of teens who associate themselves with atheism is twice as much as the general population, according to Barna.

The decline in religion among teens is at a staggering 29% among 8th graders, 25% among high school sophomores, and 27% among high school seniors in 2010 — an average of a 12% decrease from 2000, according to Barna.

“My religion and faith is important to me, and it saddens me that people are straying away from the church,” said senior Kryztyna Hernandez, who considers herself a devout Catholic. “I just wish there was something that I can do about it.”

On a web-based talk show “Living Waters,” Ray Comfort and his colleague recently discussed an email sent to them by a 14-year old freshman named Joe from Portland, Oregon.

Joe says that he is an atheist because he begged and cried for God to give him a sign that [God] was there but received nothing and that he felt free when he left the Mormon church because he was not on a predetermined path anymore.

About 13% of teens identify as atheist, which is double the population of adults who consider themselves atheist.

Others, according to Barna, say that the problem with the drop of religion in teens is the idea of evil and suffering and how it could exist if there is God who does no evil. Barna also claims that political issues, like LGBTQ rights, poverty and immigration policy may also explain the decrease in religion in teens.

“Growing up in Lebanon in a Muslim family I was always taught that Allah was superior than all but as I grew older and went to college in the States, I realized that He couldn’t solve all my problems,” said a college student who does not want to be identified out of respect for her family. “If he was really superior, He would be able to help me whenever I needed Him most and sadly he did not.”

There are also growing numbers of agnostics among the general population.

“As time progresses, I seem to find more and more solace in the absence of a god,” said Nicole Daniels, a teen from the “Living Waters” talk show who identifies as an agnostic atheist.

Sophomore Ella Altamirano from Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, who is also an agnostic atheist, says that she researched and discussed the topic and believes that it lines up with her beliefs.

In an Australian survey found on Conversation.com, half of the teens say that they do not identify with a religion, but many still find themselves being spiritual in other forms. The forms of spirituality were then divided into six categories. These spiritual people consider things like death and reincarnation or even something like a higher being (but not God).

“Everything is just a lot more complicated like ‘I’m religious but I don’t got to church’ or ‘I pray and am spiritual but I don’t believe in a god,” said senior Melissa Mancio, who was raised in a Catholic household. “Religion and your faith isn’t black and white anymore; that’s why identifying as ‘religious’ is complicated.”

Teenagers are experiencing a pivotal moment in their lives, with many trying to find themselves, according to the Huffington Post.

“I have gone through a lot of ups and downs in terms of my faith because of the things that I am going through in my life, and I feel like many other teens, especially now, feel the same way and are going through the same thing,” said Mancio. “That’s probably why religion within teens is not as high as it was before.”

Even though religion in teens as a whole has declined, teens who are religious maintain their religious identity even if they do not participate in religious activities, according to a study from UCLA.

UCLA professor of psychiatry, Andrew J. Fuligni, and his colleagues performed the study and found that  “the significant decline across the high school years… is possible because teens were simply busy doing other things,” said Fuligni.

There are benefits to teens being associated with a religion, according to the Desert News. Teens who associate themselves with a religion are less likely to use drugs and alcohol. This is because the people in their faith, like their parents and religious leaders, are there to nurture and guide them to make the right decisions, according to the article.

With a generation so immersed in social media, teens are often looking for instant answers and constant validation.

“If I need an answer, I can just Google it. With religion in general, you won’t get answers right away and God can’t speak to you immediately,” Hernandez said. “Religion requires patience and confidence, and it’s hard for teens to understand [that] nowadays.”

“Previous generations did not have all this [entertainment] so we went to church and partook in different church groups, choirs and engaged with our religious community. It was a major part of our lives and isn’t becoming one within today’s youth,” said Beata Sokalska-Bochniak, a catechism teacher from Our Lady of Bright Mount Polish Parish in Los Angeles. “Today, even society tends to imply that life is all about the material world, and it is what you own that defines your worth. Many kids are ashamed of their faith and don’t want to show it publicly.”

According to Sokalska-Bochniak, in order to make teenagers become more engaged in their faith, their family must get involved. “Parents need to make a change because often times they spend too little time to present the benefits of faith.

“So few people spend time with their family together to talk, pray, discuss, or even read small parts of the Bible together,” said Sokalska-Bochniak. “Some [parents] even believe that if they sign their children up for catechism, the teacher will teach them all there is to know and they fail to continue educating in the household. In reality, catechism teachers are only there to enhance their learning while the actual teaching should come from the parents themselves.”

religion in teens Being religious is no longer a trend for teens, research shows
(Image courtesy of Barna)

12 Comments

  • Reply Diane June 16, 2019 at 11:50 am

    Another possible reason religion is declining is because kids now are smarter and are questioning more. They are thinking for themselves, not just blindly following someone because they’re told to. So I see this as a very good thing. Religion teaches division and has too many nonsense rules that don’t apply to us today and don’t have a place in today’s society.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Reply Athirson June 16, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    RE: “My religion and faith is important to me, and it saddens me that people are straying away from the church,” said senior Kryztyna Hernandez, who considers herself a devout Catholic. “I just wish there was something that I can do about it.”

    There is. Demand accountability from the church hierarchy, specifically that it make whole each and every victim of its sex abuse/coverup scandal, and that it hand over each offending priest, bishop, etc. to the civil authorities for criminal prosecution as the civil authorities see fit.

    Until both of those things happen this ex-Catholic will never set foot in another Catholic church. And I suspect a lot more like me are of a similar mind-set

    Liked by 1 person

  • Reply Seathanaich June 16, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    ““Previous generations did not have all this [entertainment] so we went to church and partook in different church groups, choirs and engaged with our religious community. It was a major part of our lives and isn’t becoming one within today’s youth,”” TRANSLATION: Religion is losing the power it once had to control, indoctrinate, and frighten children. No argument here. The main reason for the decline of Christianity is that you no longer get murdered or banished from your family for rejecting it. Islam continues to do just fine, precisely because death threats are still the norm among its “followers” for those who dare to openly join in the communal grovelling.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Reply Angie June 17, 2019 at 5:25 am

    Some of these kids, are ones that I raised. I’m very proud of this generation. I’m very proud of my kids contribution to it.

    I have some insights as to what has happened.

    I’m not a religious person, neither was my brother, ever, but he WAS a Republican for a long time. Many years even before I transitioned, he gave me a call and kind of gave me a confession and apologized and said he was so done with those people. His reason was, and I think this is what you’re going to find with religion, he couldn’t figure out what all the hate was for. He wanted to know why they weren’t talking about freedom, why they weren’t talking about our rights, why they were laser-focused on hating gay people and nonwhites. Now we’re GenXers. These kids, are OUR kids.

    And that toxic strain of tribalistic hate that my brother identified, is virtually the only thing outsiders see of religion.

    I’m 50 this year, and was raised an atheist. I was repeatedly harassed, abused, terrorized, and demonized for my failure to believe in a fairy tale. As these kids came on the Internet, I talked to them about this a lot. I was here, writing huge tracts of atheist thought, spreading it far and wide across the Internet. I’m also transgender. My coming out 5 years ago was BECAUSE of the culture these kids have created. This backlash against relentless, mindless, ugly demonization and othering of people who they happen to now know, as something other than cardboard cutouts. This is because those kids have been getting to know each other and OTHERS outside of their tiny local circle of human beings. Their minds are broader, they are more accepting. I can see this visibly in any association I chose to make, people who are below the age of about 40, have a TOTALLY different approach to me and my transition than people who are older than me. A vastly more respectful and kind view. This generation is sick of the ABUSE. They’ve clued into it, they have identified specific behavior that is just flat-out evil and cruel, and in much larger percentages than my own or my parents’ generation, have morally decided that kind of behavior is unacceptable.

    I don’t know they even need your religion anymore, frankly they have an evolving philosophy that is demonstrably better. It might be time for churches to just get out of the way of people.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Reply Tim June 17, 2019 at 6:08 am

    I dispute the claim that religion keeps kids off drugs. I bet you would find a lot of positive correlation between belief and abuse.

    Like

  • Reply jamesmibartram June 17, 2019 at 8:45 am

    So. Categories are just stupid. There are no religious/ non religious. People are human. What they’re confused about is what the meaning of the word religion means. I still go to church and I understand how it helps me hold myself accountable to myself and perhaps God, but the fact that people consider themselves religious is the exact reason people don’t consider themselves religious. This isn’t a post Christian era. This is a post definition era.

    Like

  • Reply Ryan Bell June 17, 2019 at 10:40 am

    Hi Isabela, thank you for your excellent article. I represent a non-profit called the Secular Student Alliance. I’d love to talk with you about an event that’s happening in Los Angeles that I think you’d really appreciate and even be able to contribute to. Please reach out at ryan.bell@secularstudents.org.

    Like

  • Reply luigi212 June 17, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    So much proof there is no such thing as these made up Gods but no proof at all he existed. So many religions they all can’t be right. All made up. God damn shame how anybody can believe except the brainwashed people since childhood

    Like

  • Reply John June 17, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    A very encouraging article explaining a very positive trend. Hopefully there will come a day when religion is completely cured and people can get along peacefully.

    Like

  • Reply Waddler June 17, 2019 at 11:07 pm

    What excellent news ..ias a European after 2 world wars and proper education separation of church and state we’ve woken up to the stupidity of faith in anything but yourself
    Finally we are waking up to the superstitious stupidity of theism ..

    Like

  • Reply Z: The Post-Christian Generation | Maketinews June 19, 2019 at 1:12 am

    […] evil and the question of its existence if there’s a God that does no evil. Barna has also made a claim that says that political issues such as poverty, LGBTQ rights, and immigration policy might also […]

    Like

  • Reply The Poet X: Connections to media and social topics – GSLIS Blog September 19, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    […] Family, RelationshipsBeing religious is no longer a trend for teens, research showsWhat do Teenage Relationships Really Look Like?Young Latinos: Born in the U.S.A., carving their own […]

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