A profound shift away from religious affiliation proves prominent within Generation Z
By Kenady Storandt
As the world continues on its orbit around the sun and it’s geographical terrain continues to evolve, the religious landscape in the U.S follows a similar trend.
On an average Sunday in the outdoorsy town of Bend, the sun is beating down, acting as a warm blanket for the plethora of runners and bikers as they go about their typical morning routines. Cars zip through the Old Mill as people prepare for a day of pampering, shopping or work. Right outside of the Old Mill, a long line of cars can be seen sloping down from Mount Bachelor as people bundle up for a long day of skiing. In Bend, it seems, Sunday mornings depict the prioritization of connecting with nature and pursuing hobbies, rather than the historical pattern of attending church.
In 2019, according to PEW Research Center, 65% of Americans identified themselves as Christians. Upon first glance this number seems significant, however, it is a 12% decrease since 2009.
It is undeniable that the last decade has been plagued by a lackluster in religious affiliation– and it is not hard to believe that Generation Z carries the most responsibility being at the forefront of this ideological shift. Recent studies conducted by PEW Research Center show that, although the decline began with Baby Boomers and increased with Millenials, Gen Z’s ties to religion are proportionally weaker than ever seen before.
The hallways of Summit High School are exemplary reflections of this shift in American society with religious associations generally sitting on the backburner of most students’ minds.
“There are obviously always going to be people who are religious. But for the most part, from what I’ve seen, most of the people around my age don’t seem too concerned with religion. A lot of my friends have never even been to church and if they have, they don’t remember it,” Senior Zoey Reid said.
Ingrained in the country’s foundation, it has been the general norm to automatically categorize oneself as having a strong connection to the Christian community. For the first time in history, American society has strayed from a profound focus on social rules, and is rather being drawn to the concept of individual freedom instead.
“Post-Millennials live in a culture of choice, self-actualization, and freedom of expression…My own experience suggests that far more young people are simply indifferent to faith. They don’t ever think or talk about religion unless it’s a topic at school or bad news about religious zealotry in the Middle East or Florida,” Christel J. Manning, who has a PhD in Religious studies, said.
When viewing the conspicuous decline in religious affiliation, it is essential to also consider it within the context of broader cultural changes. As individualism persists on its skyrocketing-trend, a decline in religion in the U.S is inevitable.
The decrease of people who identify themselves within a specific religious community goes hand-in-hand with the rise of a different kind of religious phenomenon, or lack thereof. Rather than asserting themselves as Christians or Catholics (the most dominating religions in the U.S), the percentage of Gen Z’ers that identify as atheist or agnostic has doubled in comparison to the country’s adult population, according to studies conducted by Barna, a research organization that focuses on spirituality and religion.
For much of today’s youth, the status quo of Christianity and Bible study is overshadowed by its negative connotation; one which follows a historic track of prejudice and tragedy. Unfortunately, for many of the young people with minimal exposure to any sort of organized community, religion is accompanied by closed-minded intolerance. Confederate-flag-waving Christians, protests at miliarty funerals in opposition to gay rights, or the echoing sound of gun shots ringing throughout a Califorinian synagogue– these are the striking images flashing across many people’s minds.. Although not every single Christian or religiously affiliated person spends their time festering in barbaric imaginations, planning their next moves to wreak havoc on the LGBTQ or Jewish community, it is impossible to avoid that stigma when far too often, history shows a trail of bloodshed and conflict.
With the apparent and ever-evolving shifts in modern day society, fluidity and open-mindedness are at the forefront of priorities. This leaves questions of what role religion will play in the upcoming years and how this will ultimately affect society as a whole.