Few topics have ever been as widely disputed as religion. And for good reason, too, as few topics actually manage to get people so heated up to start wars and kill millions. But I digress. Religion in and of itself is a great idea. It gives people hope and it lets them look forward to something above the irreverence and senselessness of the world.
The real problem appears when religion is viewed as the be-all and end-all of your life. If you’re convinced that as long as you follow the rules in the holy book (any holy book applies) to your personal understanding, things can go seriously wrong (see religious terrorism). But people started having enough empty promises and started seeing the world for what it really is.
Millennials and religion
With the advance of science and the increasingly violent world we live in, some strange habits started manifesting among Americans, particularly among millennials. In a naïve, yet very human response to the chaos we live in, Americans’ belief in afterlife rises while that in God diminishes.
While some may very well see this as a sense of entitlement, it actually isn’t. It’s a human attempt to make sense of the world in which we live, pretty much the same kind of attempt that gave birth to most religions. And it’s very easy to actually lose your faith but still hope that all of this misery on the planet wasn’t for naught.
The results were gathered by a team of researchers from the Florida Atlantic University, the Case Western Reserve University, and the San Diego State University. They looked at the results of the General Social Survey and had a sample of 58,000 people for their meta-analysis.
Now and Then
According to the study, there are some huge differences in how people thought about religion in the 1970s and 1980s and how they do today. So let’s dig right into the results.
Only thirteen percent of U.S. adults had doubts about the existence of God in the 1980, as compared to 2014, when thirty percent of 18 to 29 year olds seriously doubt His existence. The Bible also seemed to decline as the Holy Book, with twenty two percent nowadays believing it’s a collection of good intentioned fables and morals, as compared to fourteen percent in 1980.
The year 1998 saw some forty nine percent of 18 to 29 year olds being moderately or very religious, as opposed to the thirty eight percent seen in 2014. The number of atheists also grew, with fifteen percent not being at all religious in 1998 compared to twenty percent of the population today.
And this is where the controversial part of the study begins – seventy three percent of Americans believed in an afterlife in 1974, as opposed to eighty percent today. It does sound strange indeed, but it’s something very natural.
It’s not about a sense of entitlement, nor is it hypocrisy; instead it’s a simple cognitive mechanism that allows us to keep functioning and living in this world. We may be miserable and see no hope of getting ahead in this life, but the next is bound to be better, right?
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