Twenty-somethings turn away from religion, toward secular communities
Considering the spirit of stereotypical teenage rebellion, it should come as no surprise that our generation is turning its back on organized religion. Many parents swaddle their children in the teachings of various beliefs, and once freedom is given, religion is cast off as readily as bedtimes and eating your vegetables.
As the generations progress, a trend of atheism, agnosticism and other non-theistic beliefs are becoming more prominent among our generation.The Pew Forum, a research group that primarily researches religion and public life, has conducted several surveys of 20-something religious affiliation since 2000. The lack of a reported religion among people aged 18 to 30 has increased an average of 6.5 percent each generation during the past three generations.
Twenty-somethings are at a transitional point in life when several things change, particularly independence from one’s parents and challenging beliefs that were instilled in childhood, said Nancy Menning, a religion professor at Ithaca College.
“It’s probably a long-standing pattern in Christianity in this country,” Menning said. “[After confirmation,] kids leave home and are out making their own lives and choices … but when they’re married and especially have kids, then they go back [to church].
College is the epitome of this transition. Ithaca College junior Jenna Jablonski said that her struggles were not in faith but in trying to find a new community.
“This took time,” she said. “It will not be until my senior year that I truly commit to being a part of a church community in Ithaca.”
Jablonski has been involved in church activities her whole life, including an annual service trip to Honduras with her church at home, but she said she has not been very involved with the college’s Protestant Community.
“I love what the Protestant Community does and has to offer,” she said. “But I don’t find a fulfilling place in it because I don’t have the strong social ties that most of the community members have with each other.”
Education has also become a factor in the decrease of religiousness among the 20-somethings, especially considering how advances in science and society as a whole are beginning to undermine many religious views on topics ranging from evolution to homosexuality.
Boston University junior Rick Berger, president of the Humanists of Boston University, attributed this exodus to a trend where “young people are beginning to realize that they’re being lied to, and they’re responding with an emphatic ‘fuck that.’”
He cites the varying acceptances of homosexuality among religions as an example.
“You read the scientific work on homosexuality and further realize that your pastor was not simply ignorant, but willfully ignorant,” Berger said, commenting that pastors are often willing to place the church above “the well-being of his fellow humans.”
But once students make this realization, Berger said that finding a new non-religious community is the difficult part.
“The only communities that provide the same benefits are church communities,” Berger said.
In fact, as churches are seeing drops in membership, they too are putting more effort into creating these communities for their parishioners, and this generation is again the target audience.
Julie Campbell is the director of Emeaus, a collaboration of a group of churches across southeastern Connecticut that is trying to gain the support of the skeptical younger generation through teen-to-teen ministry.
“Kids suddenly find a community in which faith is cool,” Campbell said. “And suddenly they have this great thing in common.”
Non-theistic religious organizations are working toward the same organizing strategy. We Are Atheists, started this fall by three University of Kansas students, is using home videos to promote openness and acceptance to young atheists, similar to the “It Gets Better” video project launched in 2010 to promote the LGBT community.
Berger believes that as the generation gets older, secularism will gain more popularity.
This is not to say that atheism is the answer for everyone; the best option for people “on the fence” is to educate themselves and see what is out there. Jablonski, who recently added several Eastern tenets to her overall faith, encourages people “to define faith for themselves on an individual level, and not be afraid to completely re-define it.”
Amanda Hutchinson is a freshman journalism major who only worships Buzzsaw Magazine. Email her at ahutchi2@[at]ithaca[dot]edu.