Young People vs. The Bible
But leave the prayer hands emoji out of it.
By Kristina Wagers, Southern New Hampshire University
According to recent statistics, religious practice in American millennials is at an all-time low.
While 19 percent of all Americans are religiously unaffiliated, 25 percent of the population aged 18-24 is in the same category. There are a lot of possibilities as to why this could be: emerging new beliefs, media, access to other cultures’ reasoning and science to name just a few. All of these factors combined have begun to change the face of religion and its future in the United States.
Historically, religion has been a huge part of the daily lives of people across the world. In fact, the first written records of religious practice date back to around 3500 BCE. If you fast-forward five-and-a-half-thousand years to a study done in 1948, 91 percent of Americans identified as Christian. That number has since declined to under 70 percent after the change of the millennium. Of that number, only 44 percent attend church on a frequent basis.
While less than 70 percent of the general American population identifies as “religious,” only around 59 percent of people aged 18-24 identify with a religion they were raised in. In the same trend, only a quarter of young people attend religious services regularly. These trends are drastically higher than in past years, and millennials are unlikely to return to the church at an older age as previous trends have shown. So what is so different about religion in this century?
Social media and immigration have brought people here from across the globe. Especially before social media, there was not much variation in religion from country to country. People were taught what their parents had been taught and so on, and there were really no outsiders (or enough of them) to say that there was a possibility of being wrong. Now, with access to just about every major religion, culture, belief and way of life, young people are questioning whether what they were taught is the best way to look at life.
With so many cultures around us, tolerance is seen in a new perspective. In fact, a majority millennials believe that modern day Christianity is “hypocritical,” “judgmental” and “anti-gay.” With equal rights being something most people today strive for, especially young people, these traits are not exactly favorable.
Equality is now something that is second nature to millennials. The majority of students have been raised to believe that everyone is equal, regardless of gender, race, religion or any other factor. The Bible does not necessarily say the same. Of course most parts of the Bible are up for debate regarding translation. However, I’ve used the most widely accepted versions as references.
First, the Bible does more to condone slavery than to disapprove of it. In twenty-first century America, we’ve all pretty much come to the consensus that slavery is terrible. We are more about treating people equally, regardless of who they are or where they are from. In addition, especially in the Old Testament, the role of women is submissive and second-class to men. Women are supposed to be submissive housewives who raise children and please their husbands. While a few thousand years ago this may have worked, today it doesn’t go over well. Twenty-first century women are equal to men, and when a religious text says differently, it is difficult to get young people to get on board. There are several versus from the Bible here if you’d like to read more about both slavery and women.
One of the largest reasons people, especially those in their twenties, have strayed from religion is the church’s stance on the LBGTQ community. A recent study shows that nearly 70 percent of millennials believe that “religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.” Again, with many more people under 30 being tolerant of all ways of life, this idea is a huge factor in millennial religious beliefs.
The science versus religion debate has been in play for a long time. Before the The Big Bang Theory, there was little or no evidence to prove any way in which the world may have begun other than a religious explanation. In fact, for thousands of years, there was little evidence to prove how anything worked without some sort of religious explanation. Rather than turning to the Bible or a story passed down for generations, millennials have scientific evidence at their fingertips to explain things from as simple as gravity to how our galaxy is designed.
Additionally, there are several parts of the Bible that clash with religion. And with science becoming such a large part of society, it’s difficult to accept both as fact without changing one or the other. The most obvious example of the science-religion clash is evolution. With the Bible telling readers that God created everything all at once in the Garden of Eden, and scientific evidence saying that humans evolved slowly, it’s almost impossible to fully believe both.
Millennials are skeptical of putting complete faith in a book that changes to fit its readers’ needs.
There are constantly new translations and versions of the Bible that come out, each slightly different from the next. While these changes may not be drastic from one version to the following, the translation can change greatly over a long period of time. Even entire books have been removed from the Bible from time to time.
Regardless of the reason, young Americans have begun to leave religion. Science has taken over, as have a multitude of cultures and ways of life. The internet and social media have shaped our views and allowed us to find the answers to just about anything within a few seconds. Millennials no longer need the Bible to get by—whether the change will leave a positive or negative legacy is a completely different story.