With a recent Pew study finding (again) that 29% of millennials are religiously unaffiliated, we’ve been reading some familiar rhetoric about what it means to be religious in this country.
The rise of the unaffiliated is fuel for old fires: religious leaders decrying the moral decay of our great nation and militant atheists gleefully forecasting the eventual extinction of religious belief. The study’s findings, however, demonstrate something very different about our generation than the headlines suggest.
When similar data was released in October 2012, it seemed like everyone was talking about the “nones,” but this time around, coverage is emphasizing what many millennials already know: Declining religiosity has much less to do with lack of religious belief and much more to do with lack of belief in religious institutions.
We grew up in the shadow of the “religious right” resurgence of the ’70s and ’80s, a call to arms for the Christian majority in the U.S. that seared into the public consciousness the notion that to be a religious person in this country was to be socially conservative.