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June 12th, 2012
04:49 PM ET

Pew survey: Doubt of God growing quickly among millennials

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – The percentage of Americans 30 and younger who harbor some doubts about God’s existence appears to be growing quickly, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. While most young Americans, 68%, told Pew they never doubt God’s existence, that’s a 15-point drop in just five years.

In 2007, 83% of American millennials said they never doubted God’s existence.

More young people are expressing doubts about God now than at any time since Pew started asking the question a decade ago. Thirty-one percent disagreed with the statement “I never doubt the existence of God,” double the number who disagreed with it in 2007.

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When asked about doubts of God, no other generation showed a change of more than 2% in the past five years.

The survey found that the percentage of millennials who identify with a religion is remaining constant, while most other generations have seen religious identification increase in the past 10 years.

The findings about millennials and religion were part of a 168-page report that Pew released June 4 but were largely overlooked.

“Notably, people younger than 30 are substantially less likely than older people to say prayer is an important part of their lives,” the report said.

“Research on generational patterns shows that this is not merely a lifecycle effect,” it continued. “The Millennial generation is far less religious than were other preceding generations when they were the same age years ago.”

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The findings are part of Pew’s 2012 American Values Survey, which touches on issues including political partisanship, gay marriage and abortion.

Despite the findings on millennials, the survey shows that the United States continues to be a highly religious nation, with most Americans identifying with a particular faith.

Seventy-six percent of all respondents said prayer is an important part of their lives and agreed that “we all will be called before god at the Judgment Day to answer for our sins.” About 80% said they have never doubted the existence of God.

The report points to a growing divide between the youngest and oldest Americans on belief, religion and social issues.

According to Jesse Galef, communications director for the Secular Student Alliance, the growth in “doubting” youths has led to a surge in secular student groups.

“For a lot of millennial atheists, they are expecting to find a group, they are coming to campus, and if they don’t find one, they are starting one,” Galef said. “This is completely different than what other generations grew up with.”

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The Secular Student Alliance has affiliates on 357 American campuses, Galef said, up from 81 such affiliates in 2007.

Galef says the Internet has created a place for young people to discuss religious doubts.

“It enables anybody to have open discussions without fearing if their parents would find out or what their communities would say,” he said. "The more safe places we create for young people to discuss their doubts, the more they can inspire questions in others."

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Polls

soundoff (4,013 Responses)
  1. aheist fur 2

    I just don't get it. If I cant see it than it dusnt exist. Nuff said abowt that.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Rick James

      You are a clown if you think atheists think that way.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Mike

      you don't see your mind and is there.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • aheist fur 2

      whuts that posed to mean?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Rick James

      Mike, he might not have a mind typing up comments like that.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • aheist fur 2

      You shut your mouth. nubnuts

      June 12, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Rick James

      Just as I expected, just one's run-of-the-mill troll. Except half as good.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Get Real

      Numbnuts (aheist fur 2) is too dumb to even see the @Mike was agreeing with him – ahahahahahahahahahaaa!

      June 12, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
  2. carolina carl

    there is no god, that's why

    June 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • aheist fur 2

      because.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  3. Aristocles

    These surveys are biased. Nothing serious happened in the last five years to cause widespread doubt in God. The polling techniques are the only things that have changed. If asked if people believe in God, they will almost all say they do. These are very unusual questions. A person who believes in God can have doubts, much like a person who is a patriot can doubt the government or even the country's path, while still believing in it.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Welled

      There should be a realization that. Many of the "local" religions are spin offs of the Hebrew reilgion. Catholic, mormon,christian, jehovias witness etc. The middle eastern people expermenting with religions all the time. Look when they are selling either hell or jail time. For doing bad or not doing the right thing. They want you to behave be a good boy and give them your cloak and hat and everything else. God gets them in the end of course and you get to grind life out like a dummy. Meanwhile they know they had the resources to print that book in the first place and finance those churchs and tv programs. A lot of it is about usury or lending which you'll never here from a pulpit cause people owe. They pile up mountains of debt and spend countless hours of there labor usually all their lives paying it off. This monetary system is nothing but lending and loans. Usurors have been around long as pimps. Even your country is 40 years past due to them.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Lee

      So long as the questions were asked the same way in the polls from previous years then the results are not biased. All this is saying is that younger more people who believe in a mythical being sometimes have doubts about that mythical being then in previous polls. I'm not surprised by that at all. I've always questioned however that such a large number of people actually pray every day. I wonder how many say that simply because they don't want to appear non-religious.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  4. R U Serus?

    Faith, Spirituality, Belief... all great things.

    Religion in government is not a great thing.

    But, I'm off topic. Bad me. Bad!

    June 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  5. halfbakedlunatic

    'god' is an idiotic idea promoted by immoral people to control and pacify the weak minded.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Mike

      And what makes you believe that unbelief makes you strong minded.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  6. Evangelical

    I said it before, but it bears repeating: We need to have congressional investigations on the activities of atheists like we used to have on the activities of communists. We need to ferret them out and expose them so that they will no longer be a threat to our young people.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • garrettspeaks

      0.2% of prisoners are atheists/agnostics (not corresponding to the about 5% of the population who claim that belief)
      90% of prisoners follow an Abrahamic faith (corresponding to about 90% of the population who claim that belief)

      I think we need to ferret out some religious people before they hurt us, our children, and society.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Gerry Daley

      My goodness...this sounds pretty much the theocracy we have in Iran. You really don't believe in all that deomocracy nonsense do you? It's nice that people like you are revealing themselves for what they are...crazy and ruthless.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • apostate

      Your insanity and the insanity of your like minded believers will only make more atheists. You do great work for us. Thanks.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Evangelical

      And before people bring up Sen. Macarthy, one thing that is lost in the dust bin of history was that McCarthy was right.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      And I would say that you are un-american in your thoughts, immoral in your behaviour on this blog, and generally just an asshat.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Steve

      wow... that is a bit off the charts. Seriously, ferret out atheists? Even the bible says folks can believe what they wish... it just tells them what the consequences are. So you wish to ferret out people for deciding that the consequences of the bible, if they happen at all, are not so bad and doing as they wish? Wait, maybe you can point to some evidence that says atheism hurts people?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Rick James

      It's people like you atheists (or anyone with a brain) can't stand. We love our country as much as any believer could. Your solution in dealing with people you don't like is McCarthyism and witch hunting. This shows a lack of common sense and critical thinking on your part. Knowing that they're many other like you makes me fear for this country.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • blinky

      Evangelical, While you're at it, why don't you put an electric fence around the atheists, like Pastor Worley wants to put one around gays? That is where you're prejudice is taking you. Just let people sort things out for themselves and trust them to come up with their own good answers. If Christianity really offers something good, like you seem to think it does, then people will keep coming to it. If you've got good material, then trust it. Don't poison your message with hate.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Eric G

      Thank you for being a vivid example of how your beliefs are a threat to the rest of humanity.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • James Oliver

      In the US you have freedom of religion. I don't think you want to go down that road. Perhaps Saudi Arabia is more to your liking.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • leonid7

      I find it amusing that you think atheists are hiding.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      Good f*king luck you sanctimonious dou.che canoe.

      Most atheists including myself would fight for your religious freedom even though we do not agree with religion itself because we tend to value true freedom. You on the other hand want freedom for yourself and not others, the sad part is your shortsightedness would most likely result in the loss of your own freedom when some other religion gained power over yours. You are a selfish twit.

      Support the Freedom From Religion Foundation at http://www.ffrf.org to fight asshats like this.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  7. michael

    when christians speak about the hate against them some people call it persicution complex, whereas it's just bible pophecy being fullfiled 😉 go read the bible before psychoanalysing christians.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I've already read the bible many times. I psychoanalyze everybody just for fun, though.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Seeing a poll, and not liking the reported results, calling it a hate article, or anti-christian is definitely a strong sign of persecution complex. If you can't see that, then there's nothing I can do for you.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Evangelical

      Amen! It is prophecy being fulfilled before our very eyes. Quite an exciting time to be alive and see the words written so long ago coming true.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Lee

      Good grief Evangelical you actually believe this garbage you write? Wow. I can never understand how people could possibly believe in this mythical being. It simply makes no sense.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • apostate

      Yeah, like Jesus returning. Kinda blew it on that one.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  8. Steve

    My hang up is this... Preachers say God created everything, and has always existed. Have you ever actually tried to fathom the idea of eternal or forever? That's a long time... how/why would God exist forever and create one miserable failure of a planet with life? At the same time, scientists say that BOOM there was a universe. Same thing... hard to fathom something from nothing. Some say that there was 'stuff' and life came from that, where did the stuff come from? Who made it? Who made God? Forever is, well, forever.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Jeff

      We are just a combined thought in the unity of the celestial masculine and feminine beings

      June 12, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  9. TheRationale

    Good trend.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  10. Rick James

    To every religious person from this atheist: You're nothing special. It's fine to believe whatever you want, and I won't stop you, but at some point you will have to contend with the world around you as it is, not how you want it to be. Religion is a crutch. It puts emphasize on the "fact" that you have a broken leg(looking at you "original sin") and without the crutch you can't walk. More humans are starting to learn that you can walk on your own- the crutch wasn't really needed at all. Granted, just turning everyone atheism isn't going to solve every problem, but we will start see everyone for who they are and see problem for what they really are. I don't truly know what will happen after this life, but I can make a good guess it's just like it was before birth. My essence will become one with the universe. I tend that would be better than being judges by some deity, whether it be God, Allah, Zeus, or Thor.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Evangelical

      I pray that you find God before it is too late.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • garrettspeaks

      @Evangelical: I hope to reason that reason finds you before it's too late for you to have an actual life not subjugated under a fantasy like religion.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Rick James

      Evangelical, you should know that prayer hasn't and won't do anything. And what if it is too late? I'd rather go to hell for being myself and being skeptical than go to heaven for being gullible and a sellout. God, seeing the stuff he did in the Bible, has no right to question anyone.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • !

      Don't fret Rick, Jesus will grant you your desires

      June 12, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • juanmoretime

      I feel sorry for you, for you have a soul, yet you know not why. All I know is that I see Gods creation all around me, I see it in the smile of a child, the myriad forms of a snowflake, the changing of the seasons, the singing of the birds, the buzz of the bee from flower to flower. I wake up every morning thanking him for another day, be it nice, stormy or dreary. Yes, I see him and I don't have to be in a church, synagogue or mosque to know he is there. When I die, I would rather it be with the belief that there is an after life and that my soul will go there.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Rick James

      !: If Jesus would grant my desires, why did he do it when I was a Christian?

      Juan: Unfortunately, you talking as if you are living in a world of simplicity and that the world around you is evidence that someone created everything. You're taking things at face value, which is fine, but at some point, we as a face has to be more analytical. The "soul" is nothing more than a construct of the human mind. There is no proof that it actually exists. You believe what you want, but I'm just saying that dealing with the world for how it is is much more exciting.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  11. Eman de Riuqer

    That's refreshing. The Post-MTV generation might not turn out as dumb as we all feared. Knowledge has historically been seen by the religious as an enemy, and they were right to fear it. When you learn, you understand more easily that a system of beliefs invented by long dead idiots who didn't know what lightning was, or how gravity worked and acted on planets like the Earth to cause the apparent motions of the stars and other twinkling things in the sky, based on hallucinations, misunderstandings by primitive minds, to outright-self-serving LIES, bigotry, hatred, etc. has NO PLACE in a world of intelligent, educated, civilized people. Like the dinosaurs religious people DON'T believe lived, (despite the fact that there is a FOSSIL RECORD showing they lived.) religion is a great plague we'll all be better off without.

    As organized religion is to fraud, so genocide is to murder. All four concepts, conveniently, fit snugly together.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  12. apostate

    I never doubted you for a second Thor. I feel you in my heart and you changed my life.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  13. Dave Dawson

    I must confess ...
    I just love the way they're sending themselves to the wilderness

    June 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Why so cryptic?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  14. rochdoc

    The generation seeking proof. You only proof is teh proof of Jonah,.

    June 12, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  15. adamthefirst

    This is another hate article by cnn and there anti-Christian beliefs.

    June 12, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Psst, your persecution complex is showing.

      June 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • FSM

      It's not even anti-religion let alone anti-christian. Still that's probably the good thing about paranoia – one time someone will be out to get you.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • R U Serus?

      CNN does not post hate articles.
      CNN is not anti-christian.

      "Their", not "There"

      June 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      Christians love to feel persecuted....

      June 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  16. rochdoc

    Newsweek used to do a lot of antiChristian articles. They just went down to trash. When it is bad time, head strong idiots stubbornly choose the wrong path. CNN will die if we don't get another shock and awe in Syria.

    June 12, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • aheist fur 2

      and they put obama with a gay heylow

      June 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Rick James

      LOL, this isn't anti-Christian at all. It's pro-knowledge.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  17. TheThinker1958

    68% of young people might WANT to GOD to exist. They haven't seen proof of God at all. How many are 100% that he is real?

    June 12, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • swisscottage

      What percentage of people think that piles of atoms became self-aware and decided to start walking around one day?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • max

      everyone who believes creationism, unfortunately. sounds pretty ridiculous eh? I mean, piles of atoms just getting up and becoming self-conscious and walking around. A couple trillion spontaneously decided to start hanging out together and collectively call themselves adam? was that a democratic decision? How did all the other atoms feel about this new faction?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  18. rochdoc

    I don't know how much money they spent on this research poll.
    Polling God!!

    June 12, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  19. blessedgeek

    When I wrote this comment, the header said "(666 Responses)".

    June 12, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  20. rochdoc

    If you do a poll of people you will also find that the number of people who do not know who their real paternal sp-m donor is also increasing. This is just the pattern of current generation.

    June 12, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.