Another Look at the ‘Least Religious Generation’
by Drew Moser, Christianity Today, 9/25/19.
The Twentysomething Soul: Understanding the Religious and Secular Lives of American Young Adults, by Tim Clydesdale and Kathleen Garces-Foley… the authors’ original research, which draws from hundreds of interviews and thousands of surveys of twentysomethings across the nation. Their analysis focuses on the 91 percent of American twentysomethings who identify as either Christian (Catholic, evangelical, or mainline Protestant) or “religiously unaffiliated.” (Twentysomethings of other faith traditions are not considered in this book.) Clydesdale and Garces-Foley distill their work into seven major claims:
- Contrary to popular opinion, the beliefs and practices of American twentysomethings reveal far more continuity than decline.
- One in three twentysomethings attend worship regularly, but they cluster within young-adult friendly congregations.
- The religiously unaffiliated are a diverse group, consisting of atheists, agnostics, and believers.
- Today’s American twentysomethings adopt one of four approaches to faith: They prioritize it, they reject it, they sideline it, or they practice an “eclectic spirituality.”
- American twentysomething spirituality groups into two camps: traditionally religious and nontraditional.
- Those American twentysomethings who prioritize religious and spiritual life are more likely to engage in a certain set of practices: marriage, parenthood, college graduation, employment, voting, community engagement, and social involvement.
- American twentysomethings view institutions differently than their elders: As the authors explain, “Today’s twentysomethings experience the world less as sets of institutions prescribing standard life scripts and more as nodes on a network from which they can freely choose cultural symbols, strategies, and interpretations.”