The number of American adults who identify as Christian is dropping, and according to a new survey released Tuesday (May 12), these plummeting percentages have a lot to do with millennials.
In a survey of 35,000 American adults conducted by Pew Research Center, the Christian population currently stands at 70.6%, which is a significant drop from 2007, when it was 78.4%. The survey also found that nearly every branch of Christianity in the United States is losing members steadily.
While young people aren't entirely to blame for the drop, it's clear that their participation -- or lack thereof -- makes a huge difference when it comes to organized faith. According to Pew, over one-third of millennials now say they are unaffiliated with any religion.
Obviously, religion is not being passed down from generation to generation -- at least, not in the same way it has been. While 85% of people born from 1928-1945 identify as Christians, only 56% of people born from 1990-1996 do the same. That means our grandparents, while religious themselves, are less successful at passing down their beliefs as their parents were, and their parents before them. Despite this, Pew found that eight in ten millennials were raised in religious homes.
So what's the story here? Are millennials truly abandoning religion? Or could it be the religious values of our parents and grandparents simply aren't aligning with the values of our generation?
As we all know, we millennials have developed a reputation for doing things our own way. Not only are we a highly educated, super hard-working group of humans (no matter what the media says), but for reasons that range from economic factors to personal preference, we're also getting married later and having fewer children than generations before us.
There's also the political factor to consider. Millennials are supporting issues such as marriage equality, climate change, and reproductive rights in droves, while many traditional religious institutions still reject these ideas.
However, the Pew survey also found that while religious affiliation is down, not everyone is losing faith. The percentage of atheists remains low: just 3% of those who identified their religion as "none" called themselves atheists, while just 4% said they were agnostic.
If these numbers are any indication, perhaps millennials haven't given up religion completely, so much as they're intent on redefining it for themselves, just like everything else in life.