Faith Of Our Fathers? Survey Says Not So Much

February 23, 2010

“Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we shall be true to thee ’til death.”

Maybe so. Maybe no. The old hymn might not ring true anymore.

A study released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life concludes that young Americans are significantly less religious than their fathers, mothers and grandparents.

Pew researchers interviewed more than 35,000 Americans about their religious views. They found one in four “millennials” (that is, people born after 1980 who came of age around the millennium) characterize themselves as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular. Fewer than one in five members of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) expressed similar religious doubts when they were in their early 20s.

Only 13 percent of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) were unaffiliated with a religious tradition when they were young adults, according to the survey and comparison with past data.

None of this means the younger generation doesn’t have a prayer.

In fact, 45 percent of the millennials surveyed say they pray daily — about the same percentage as generations past. They also believe in an afterlife and concepts such as heaven, hell and miracles at roughly the same percentages.

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