According to Pew Research, the fastest growing segment of religion in America are those who report having no religious affiliation. Referred to as the “nones” this group includes your standard run of the mill atheists and agnostics but more surprisingly represents a growing number of young adults who simply do not want to identify with any one religious group. In his book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, James Emery White reports that 1 in 5 Americans claim no religious affiliation. In 1940 this number was only 5% and by 1990 had grown to only 8%. But over the past two decades the percentage of religiously unaffiliated has shown massive growth. In fact, the “nones” are now the third largest religious group in America. What is less surprising is that the majority of the “nones” are young — 1/3 of those under 30 reported being in this category. What’s most alarming is that many of the “nones” are bucking the traditional convention of returning to church as they get older. So that begs the question, why are so many young people losing their religion.
According to Kenda Creasy Dean, author of “Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church” the problem may lie with parents. She writes, “the religiosity of American teenagers must be read primarily as a reflection of their parents religious devotion (or lack thereof) and, by extension, that of their congregations.” (p.3) As evidence for this conclusion, she points to interviews with young people who call themselves Christians but are unable to articulate even the most basic distinctives of the Christian faith. Rather than passing down a Biblical faith to their children, American Christian have largely passed down the acceptable civil religion referred to a Moral Therapeutic Deism. Dean point out that it is not that young people don’t see value in religion but that they haven’t been given a religion worth holding onto.
If the American church is ever going to experience revival we must take a long, hard look at what we are passing down to the next generation. Dean notes that the group that demonstrated the highest level of religious understanding and vitality in the survey were those who came from Mormon families. This should be an alarm bell for every Bible-believing Christian. We must take a hard look at what we are passing down to our children. Is it the robust, historic faith of the Bible or a watered-down version of the truth.
We need to give our children a faith that is worth living and passing down to the next generation.