American Youth Are Rejecting Organized Religion

Losing Our Religion

A pretty interesting/important book by Robert Putnam (et al) --

New research shows young Americans are dramatically less likely to go to church -- or to participate in any form of organized religion -- than their parents and grandparents (from ABC --

Putnam says that in the past two decades, many young people began to view organized religion as a source of "intolerance and rigidity and doctrinaire political views," and therefore stopped going to church.

From the book's summary:

America has experienced three seismic shocks, say Robert Putnam and David Campbell. In the 1960s religious observance plummeted. Then, in the 1970s and 1980s a conservative reaction produced the rise of evangelicalism and the Religious Right. Since the 1990s, however, young people, turned off by that linkage between faith and conservative politics, have abandoned organized religion entirely. The result: growing polarization. The ranks of religious conservatives and secular liberals have swelled, leaving a dwindling group of religious moderates in between.

Three possibly surprising statements:

  • The withdrawal of young people from organized religion has accelerated over the last five years. And the primary reason for this creeping secularism is the ever-tightening connection between religion and right-wing politics. Young people are increasingly turned off by religion, as they see it aligned with a conservative brand of politics they find unappealing.
  • Jews are the most broadly popular religious group in America today.
  • Even fervently religious Americans believe that people in other faiths can get to heaven;

I'll purchase the book later this year and revisit the topic with whatever insights I can provide.

My initial thoughts: remember that the Holy Spirit, working through the Word and Sacraments, is the only way faith is created. Church growth is accomplished solely by the Holy Spirit. Faith is not created through:

  • anything we decide to do for ourselves,
  • political grandstanding,
  • large showy sanctuaries,
  • appeals to emotion,
  • trendy music or t-shirts, or
  • social gospel initiatives...and so on.

If we have, as workers in the Kingdom, neglected or rebelled against this truth, perhaps we are reaping what we have sown?