It’s no secret the importance of following a religion has diminished in the millennial generation. Is being an atheist a new fad? The reason could stem from the fact that religion and culture are subject matters not taught in public schools.
Undergraduates tend to follow their parents’ choice of religion because they are ignorant of other traditions. Young students learn about history, language arts, science and mathematics. Religion plays a part in each of these categories, but schools do not value the importance of learning it.
Going into universities, students can spit out the dates they have memorized for important historical events, but cannot explain the culture and religion of the nation the event involves. This is a factor in the growing rate of millennials who identify as atheist or agnostic.
“Many Millennials have parents who are Baby Boomers, and Boomers expressed to their children that it’s important to think for themselves — that they find their own moral compass,” said Michael Hout, a sociology professor at New York University.
The ideals of the millennial generation differentiate from those of older generations. Going out on your own, creating your own path, believing what makes you happy and doing what you want are just some of the principles millennials practice that older generations struggle to understand.
Japanese citizens’ main objective is to be a good citizen: to not object society and to refrain from actions that cause suffering. America’s older generations share this ideal — to do what they think society wants them to do. They follow traditions, not questioning if they actually believe or understand them, but because it is tradition.
The millennial generation does not think in this way — they follow their own principles, even if it differs from what they’ve been taught or brainwashed into thinking. Millennials are straying from religion because the religions they were raised on do not follow these same principles.
“And more than any other group, Millennials have been and are still being formed in this cultural context,” Hout said. “As a result, they are more likely to have a ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude toward religion.”
Millennials are accepting of different communities like the LGBTQ community. This differentiates from the lack of acceptance these communities get from religious institutions in America. If a church discriminates instead of loving all, how can millennials support that? The loving and accepting attitude of the millennial generation, often mocked as the “snowflake” generation, differs from the attitude of churches.
Millennials are finding religion in their own way. Some find it in music by attending music festivals and dressing freely. Some find it in knowledge, becoming well-read individuals and striving to obtain higher levels of education. Spirituality is attractive for all ages, though the definition of spirituality differs. If the older generations want religion to remain important for the millennial generation, then it should be progressive and change with the times.
Britany Diefenderfer is a 20-year-old English literature junior from Thibodaux, Louisiana.