The future of faith in America

Religious change in America is often seen as the result of independent decisions made by a rising generation living by a different set of values. But new evidence paints a much more complicated picture than the traditional narrative. Young adults today have had entirely different religious and social experiences than previous generations did. The parents of millennials and Generation Z did less to encourage regular participation in formal worship services and model religious behaviors in their children than had previous generations. Many childhood religious activities that were once common, such as saying grace, have become more of the exception than the norm.

Researchers have long known the importance of early religious experiences in setting the trajectory of faith commitments throughout life. Childhood religious experiences have strongly predicted adult religious involvement. If someone had robust religious experiences growing up, they are likely to maintain those beliefs and practices into adulthood. However, without robust religious experiences to draw on, Americans feel less connected to the traditions and beliefs of their parents’ faith.


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