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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. Voice of Reason

    86 billion neurons with an innate plasticity yet the religious don't bother to educate and seek knowledge. It truly is a disgrace to our species. The concept will fade away and be just a small byte of history.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • butch

      except that said concept has completely dominated every single minute of our recorded history and very likely tens of thousands of years before we started recording. no. sadly, religion will never go away.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      I disagree butch, just because something that has been around for so long doesn't mean it will not go away. In time evolution will (as it has already) show natural truths in this natural world. Man has been around a very long time but one day we will be extinct just as religion will be.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Hello

      Newton was a Christian and so was Galileo

      June 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      If that is true please prove it and if it is what is your point?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  2. Craig

    There's just something ironic about a "Pew study" about the existence of God. Beyond that, I'm not surprised by the results. If you look at the attacks perpetrated by the Christian Right, they are making the problem...assuming it is a "problem"...themselves. As someone observed on Facebook today..."I have no problem with God, it's his Fan Club I can't stand."

    June 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  3. Hello

    I can appreciate if an atheist can present an intelligent debate but too many atheists result to name calling and immature behavior. The debate between Richard Dawkins and Ben Stein is compelling. Dawkins eventually conceded there must have been a creator after he initially brought up aliens and Stein pressed him harder. It is on youtube. I agree Dawkins makes some valid questions about the Old Testament and I am a Christian. Although Dawkins stayed away from Jesus I noticed.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • junior

      Because Dawkins cannot argue about the Messiah.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Hello

      And Stein is jewish but he has respect for Christians and religous freedom.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • JakeAZ

      you should read "the god delusion" he doesn't stay away from christ at all.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      @Hello

      seems like you see things from one side only. or you never posted on here before. christians rail atheists too, name calling, threats, 'you're going to hell' - which means you are evil and will deserve to be tortured forever. so get off your high horse and stop painting a very one-sided picture.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Read Bootyfunk's reply. I see name calling on both sides, but I see a complete unwillingness to actually follow the logic presented most by christians. Christians continually misrepresent/lie, ignore the relevant points presented, and then just flat out deny that any atheist argument is reasonable. It's pitiful.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Damo

      Good grief. Saying "yeah, sure, we could have been created by aliens. Just show me the proof. And those aliens would have had to have evolved naturally, by the way, not just POOF existed" is not the same as saying "oh yes, your Magic Skyfather is real. He just POOF existed, and then made everything else, no question about it."

      Keep asking questions, everyone.

      And never accept "Just because" as an answer. We'd never have gotten anywhere if not for the people that refused to accept that answer.

      And remember "God's will" is just a fancier way of saying "Just because".

      June 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  4. butch

    it's shocking how many people still have their heads buried in the sand. when will they all look around and recognize that there is no one out there that gives a crap what happens on this little rock except for some of the people who live on it?

    one can dream, i guess.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Mike

      What a philosophy of what life is I rather be a Christian

      “nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”

      Richard Dawkins

      June 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  5. Rick James

    If Jesus truly came back, his followers wouldn't recognize him. They would call him a hippie who left his stable carpenter job to perform magic tricks. Heck, they would probably crucify him again, or give him the electric chair.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      and he'd be a total communist. they'd ship him off to russia.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Hello

      Jesus was not a hippe. He was the son of a mason worker or in modern terms a carpenter. He had a very hard message that many couldn't follow even after he performed miracles and he wasn't afraid to be confrontational. And he was not a communist. He didn't tell the romans to tax the jews even more and redistribute. His idea of sharing was at an individual level which is more like charity.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Hello

      * step son of Yosef.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  6. Me

    Polls and articles about religion have no place in a news organisation. Keep it in church.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      if religion didn't have such an enormous affect on politics and society, i imagine there would be much fewer stories. if priests could keep their hands off little boys, i imagine there wouldn't be stories about church molestation. if religious groups didn't come out to block g.ay marriage, i imagine there wouldn't be as many stories about it.

      want someone to blame? blame the church's archaic views and the actions they take.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • yeahalright

      When the religious go ahead and keep their religion out of public life and lawmaking, then you can talk.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  7. Evangelical

    Actually, as was pointed out below, Christians should be happy to have these numbers: 68% with no doubts in God and probably a majority of the doubters are also believers (but with doubts). Just goes to show the hatred CNN has for Christianity to spin it as if atheists have the superior numbers. It is shameful to do such a thing on a belief blog.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Rick James

      Spin away, but you can't deny the truth. People are starting to learn more, and the more you know, the less you believe.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Everett Mack

      When you make wild unfounded statements that CNN is spinning this like atheists are in the majority...that is why Christians are losing ground. People see this, and then they wonder if you are making wild unfounded statements about the bible also. Thank you for helping our cause, Evangelical. 🙂

      June 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Jen

      They don't spin it. What is true is that evangelical Christians like you are in the minority (thank goodness!). All of the Christians I know are reasonable, intelligent and kind people who question things (including my husband). Of course none of them are from the bible belt...(again, thank goodness)!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Madtown

      Right, 'cuz "belief" refers only to christianity. More comedy!!!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Edwardo

      I think you're wrong. People will say they believe, to keep from being ostricized. I don't think they really believe any of it. If they did, they wouldn't cuss, drink, smoke, etc. Most people I know who call themselves Xtians, just talk the talk, not walk the walk. Besides, the majority used to think the earth was flat. The majority is often WRONG!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • yeahalright

      I think you missed the point, unsurprisingly. yes, you're the majority...a shrinking one. Thankfully.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  8. Hello

    I don't like bashing atheists but as a Chrisitian I just want to be left alone and the media bashing is concerning.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yes, anytime there's a story that doesn't praise christianity, it's bashing. boo hoo hoo.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Hello

      Point proven Bootyfunk. You are the example of the problem.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      you want to be left alone? lol, that's funny. WE want to be left alone. stop knocking on our doors. stop trying to teach your ignorant voodoo in schools. stop trying to pass laws based on your bronze/iron age ethics. stop priests from molesting children and then covering it up.

      basically, leave us alone, and you'll be left alone.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  9. Roumen LA

    Finally some good news!

    June 12, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  10. ElectricLion

    I'm an atheist. How old was I when I realized that the whole "God thing" simply doesn't hold water? I was 10. If you grow up in a household where questions and dialog are permitted and even encouraged, where religious teaching doesn't include punishment and recrimination when having doubts; the you will realize that it simply doesn't work about the time you're old enough to think for yourself.

    Besides, if there ever really was such a Guy and He really did come back, the organized Christian churches would do everything in their power to discredit and shut Him up. If that didn't work, He'd be very dead very quickly and very noisily. "Preparing for His return" is just too damned lucrative.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • junior

      Lucrative, there is money to be made?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Mike

      I think your argument is very close minded there many people of faith that grow up in a free thinking home and they are christians because they have willingly accepted christ.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • JakeAZ

      mike – they wouldn't even had heard of christianity if not for growing up in that environment. why were the native americans not christians already when we arrived? ever think about it? its all word of mouth. religion is a human invention.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • junior

      Jesus told his disciples to spread out and proclaim the Gospel. If Virgin Atlantic Airways or EL AL were operating during that time, possibly they would have spread out a little quicker to the expanse of the globe. However conveyances were either animals or carts or boats or carts pulled by animals. Capice. And you pride yourself on intellect. Tsk Tsk.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • yeahalright

      "there's money to be made?"

      You really believe that's a legitimate question? Do you also question whether up is up? And whether blue is blue?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  11. junior

    CNN Belief Blog must be the cathedral for atheistic worship. Services 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. Which one of you is presiding? By what authority?

    June 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Rick James

      Go look up what "atheist" means and then have a word with yourself.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • junior

      you worship your own little egos. Tiny I might add. Nothing like blowing it up on a projecter. The only problem is that it loses it's clarity, it's definition. I will pray for your healing.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Shrinking, shrinking, shrinking junior. I know it's sad for you but you've had a good couple thousand year run. Time for grownups to take over.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Madtown

      junior
      you worship your own little egos.
      -----
      Nothing more arrogant, than someone who purports to speak on behalf of God, and thinks they know what God thinks and wants. Talk about ego.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  12. Paul

    Doubt of God growing? This is not news to those who read the Bible and understand what they're reading. It was all predicted long ago for now.

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

      they (atheistic or anti-theistic friends) don't get it. The prophets were laughed at, the apostles were ridiculed and even the Lord our Savior was scorned. Their stance has taken many forms of heresy and yet the Church is still here, just like Our Lord and Savior promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • JakeAZ

      you know most of the other bible predictions have been wrong right?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Of COURSE they were laughed at and scorned. And of course they'd put in a whole bunch about "you'll be scorned and disbelieved" like it's prophecy. It's not prophecy, it's reality. If you add a persecution complex like your savior you can put it up like a shield against reality. Which, again, should scorn lunatics who see things that aren't there and hear voices.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Everett Mack

      How did that world being flat thing pan out for you Christians? Do you attribute earthquakes to god too? I think that might be the real reason that you are ridiculed.

      June 12, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  13. citizen4

    The article should have said "Hatred of God Growing" In this decadent hedonistic society God is about the only one left who dares to hold people accountable for their behavior. Jeffrey Dahmer had it right: "If there is no God then you are responsible to nobody but yourself and you can do anything you want." That's why the No God philosophy is so appealing.

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

      Amen

      June 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • yeahalright

      How can you hate something that doesn't exist? I know that's hard for you to wrap your head around, but an athiest doesn't hate god anymore than he/she hates the easter bunny or thor.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Right because every athiest is jeffrey dahmer. Generalize much?

      Ever hear the expression that the true measure of a person's morality is what they do when no one is looking? You got your inivisible friend watching everything you do. Fear keeps you in line.

      I manage to do quite well morally, with nobody watching, nobody to judge me afterwards.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • reality

      "hatred of god?" sorry but majority of gods supporters spread their own hate pushing beliefs down everyone else's throat only makes sense that people are started to see a pattern. the world would be better off without religion its mainly spreads hatred, discrimination, and many more problems let people be free not chained.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Everett Mack

      So what your saying is the only thing keeping Christians from going Jeffrey Dahmer on the world is their faith in an invisible magic god? That is truly scary. Maybe the zombie apocolypse IS coming...

      June 12, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  14. saneman

    The christians need to accept that the declining belief in God is their own doing. God and the bible are for nothing more than spreading hatred, blame, segregation and ensuring that only certain laws apply to only certain people...particularly those who can fill the "offering bowl". Christians have no one to blame but themselves, the youth of the world can see "The Truth".

    June 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • windsor guy

      The truth is in the light of Jesus Christ so i wonder who is blinded to not see the real truth

      June 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • justme

      Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “ You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”

      June 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  15. Evangelical

    This is exactly what you get when you take prayer out of school. Christians need to redouble out efforts to offset the activities of atheists that will led to this country's demise.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • JWT

      So you are saying that schools had a vastly greater infuence on generating the religious affinity of children that their parents did. Your kidding I hope as that is so totally wwrong. But thansk for the laugh.

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

      yes, this is exactly what you get when you take prayer out of school - people start to think rationally. imagine that.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Rick James

      School is a place to learn, not be indoctrinated with falsehoods. Plus, if you haven't noticed, countries that becoming more non-religious are having better math and science scores. And people can still pray in school, they just can't be forced to.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Everett Mack

      Our science will defeat your faith. 🙂

      June 12, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Dj

      You are in school as a child and spend way more time with teachers than you do parents. Its the parents and the lack thereof that cause the decrease in number of christians not the children.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Jen

      Evangelical – I think you mean lead not led. What we really need to do is ensure that children come out of school with the ability to read and write (because if you managed to graduate high school it proves that you can come out of school not knowing how to do either).

      June 12, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Portland tony

      Put some prayer in school .....if place of what....Math, science, history ......WHAT?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Evangelical

      It would take hardly any time out of the school day to have prayer in school.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Prayer has not been removed from schools. Only mandated, single denomination prayer has been halted.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Your kid can pray all day if you want him/her to for all I care.

      But you dam.n well better keep your supersti.tions far far away from mine.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Robert S

      Just being curious, but would you extend the privilege to practice faith in schools for non-christians as well?

      June 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  16. Just call me Lucifer

    I hate to play devils advocate here, but I gotta say Satan is definitely the cooler of the Uberdudes..Rock 'n roll, jazz, metal, deathmetal. Thats all the Dark Angel... praise be to His name. You christians are freakin' Bo-Ring. You should bring back those statues of the Virgin Mary that you guys rigged to cry tears of blood. Remember those? Now there's a miracle baby.That'll fill the money basket in no time. Hell, I'd even go to church for that.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Dj

      Lucifer would attend his own church...just because u dont doesnt meant you arent serving him

      June 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      the devil is interesting; god is boring.

      read paradise lost - now read paradise found.

      plus, if i don't go to Hell, i won't get to speak to Ghandi or John Lennon.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Rick James

      Satan has indeed gotten a bad rap. All the bad thing that he does is all because God lets him. He's sort of like God's prosecuting attorney.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  17. garrettspeaks

    CNN post article showing scientifically-valid decreased religious trend
    Christian response: "Stop hating my religion! I'm reporting you!"

    Fox News posts videos about fundamentalist pastors talking about killing/enslaving gays
    Christian response: "Free speech expressing my belief! Nothing wrong here!"

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

    the ays run the goverment

    June 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  19. Noel

    The lack of belief in God does not surprise me... I tend to blame this lack of faith on the church. The church has been a tremendous disappointment to a lot of people, including myself, because of its hypocrisy and hunger for power and self serving organizations. The church has actually driven a lot of people away from God because of its contradictory message. I truly believe that Jesus would be disgusted with the church of today.

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

      and the internet. information is killing religion. peeps can fact check, look things up, are exposed to differing opinions, etc. priests can't rely on ignorance to keep the flock in line anymore.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Larry

      Well said, Noel. The modern church has allowed christian teachings to be completely subverted. I consider myself a spiritual person, but I totally reject the modern christian church.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Noel

      My lack of belief has nothing to do with organized religion. While your reason may account for some, there are many atheists who do not believe because of logic and reason, and generally being a person that find leaps of faith unreliable for discerning what is actually true.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  20. Aristocles

    Also, the polls are better than I imainged, even if they are biased. "Only" more than a super-majority (2/3) of the "crazy young people" have NO doubts about God. Those that have a few doubts still believe. No one said faith was easy.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Evangelical

      Excellent point! Christians should be happy to have these numbers.

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

      here's the point you're missing - compared to 50 years ago, the country is much less religious and going in that direction, with the youth leading the way. in another 50 years, how many will be christian? a lot less. how many will be atheist? a lot more. sowwy.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • yeahalright

      and shrinking and shrinking. With any luck it'll be in the single digits in a few more generations.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:58 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.