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Opinion | Americans Under 30 Don’t Trust Religion — or Anything Else

Admin By Admin Nov26,2023

He thinks the big story here is that so many younger nones categorize themselves as nothing in particular rather than as atheists or agnostics. If you’re an atheist or an agnostic, you have a defined worldview. Whereas with many young Americans, Burge said, “they look at all the religion options and say, ‘I really don’t want to pick a side.’ And that’s what nothing in particular is. It’s not religious, obviously, but it’s also not secular, either. It’s kind of, ‘No, thank you. I’ll pass on the question of religion.’”

And while some of their disaffiliation is driven by the same reasons we’ve seen for older millennials and Gen X, what distinguishes the under-30 set is a marked level of distrust in a variety of major institutions and leaders — not just religious ones. So it makes a certain kind of sense that they don’t want to associate too closely with any defined group.

A new report from the Survey Center on American Life at the American Enterprise Institute calls this “formative distrust,” noting that older Americans had “greater confidence in political leaders during their childhood years.” If you grew up, as I did, during the relatively stable Clinton years, for example, you probably have a very different view of political institutions than someone turning 25 today, whose political consciousness may have been formed during the Trump era.

I spoke to Daniel Cox, the director of the survey center, who said that for a long time most Americans generally respected society’s institutions and processes and expected that even if people had differing opinions, “the adults would kind of take care of things.” That’s changed. “For both millennials and Gen Z, I think that was not the world they were raised in, where you had people increasingly vociferously complaining, lobbing accusations around election integrity, and people cheating or not abiding by the rules or conventions of the past,” Cox said.

What’s more, some religious institutions have had high-profile ethical failures around cases of sexual abuse — concealing rather than confronting allegations of wrongdoing among their leadership. “Instead of trying to redress these really incredibly painful problems, they made things worse in many instances,” Cox said. “So I think that’s a really different environment to come of age and to learn about how these institutions operate and who they operate for.”

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