We may be in a religious recession

Are we in the midst of a great religious recession?

A number of studies show that younger people are less religious than older people, and religiosity has declined with each successive generation. In the 2015 Pew Research Center report on religion and public life, 36% of 21- to 27-year-olds are classified as unaffiliated, a far higher proportion than among their parents’ (17%) or grandparents’ (11%) generations.

In extensive interviews with parents and their 18- to 29-year-olds for our book, “Getting To 30: A Parent’s Guide to the 20-Something Years,” we found that religious questioning is part of the identity explorations woven into this life stage.

When a family’s religious beliefs are questioned

Most emerging adults feel that it would be wrong for them simply to accept what their parents and others have taught them about religious issues. Their inquiry sometimes leads to a confirmation of their childhood beliefs, but more often to modifying them, and sometimes to a wholesale rejection.

Rather than holding to traditional beliefs, the majority of 20-somethings typically have a vague but inclusive belief in a God who watches over the world and wants people to be good to each other.

Criticizing young people for their beliefs (or absence of beliefs) will not bring them back to your religion and make them accept what you believe.

For some parents, their children’s religious choices are a hot button topic; for others, the subject is almost a nonissue. If parents don’t have a strong religious affiliation or commitment to spiritual seeking, then what their 20-somethings believe is of little interest or concern to them; they may not even know.

Parents can see religious acceptance as a measure of success

But when parents’ religious beliefs are central to their worldview and daily lives, their emerging adult’s beliefs may be one of the most important measures of their success or failure as parents: success if their children accept and embrace the beliefs they were taught, and failure if they don’t.

For these parents, their responses to what their grown-up kids believe may be emotionally complex, fraught with meaning about their…

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