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.”