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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. Edwardo

    Religions are memes – don't know what a meme is? A meme ( /ˈmiːm/; MEEM)[1]) is "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."[2] A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures. Does that define religion, or what??

    June 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Please remember that religious types do not read or question. Unfortunately they will not give one moment of thought to a meme. They should but they won't.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • JM

      That describes anyone who jumps on any bandwagon, which most people do (iPhone-buying, fashion-wearing, expensive stuff purchasing, I know everything there is to know superiority, keeping up with the Joneses).

      However, the pursuit of the truth is completely different. If God is real, just saying "I'm too intelligent to believe in God" doesn't make one intelligent and negate God's existence. It makes one rather silly and clueless and has consequences. Intelligent people pursuie the truth.

      Reading The Screwtape Letters right now. So excellent. Delusion is delusion.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Edwardo

      @Voice – agreed. However, the first time I read the definition of a meme, a light bulb came on. I then understood why religious people do the things they do. Why they risk life and limb to "spread the gospel". They have a type of illness. They don't know why they're compelled to keep their religion alive. The religion is a living thing. It wants to propagate itself onto others, in order to survive. It really made a huge impact on me.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Edwardo

      I'm totally with you brother! It's sensible information unlike the other stuff we see here. Great to see you have been reborn into reality!

      June 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Edwardo

      @Voice – I was born and raised on a Pentecostal church pew.. FOR REAL. It has taken years to de-program myself. My family just freaks over the fact that I'm an atheist. You would think I was a child molestor or something, the way they act. They don't want me around their children, etc. They're afraid I'll make their children "bad people", if I even had a discussion with them about their beliefs. It's bizarre. It's a cult actually.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Edwardo

      I'm new to this as well and I know the sense of discrimination that you are experiencing with your family. I'll be lucky to be able to see my grandchildren because of the believers. Just know you are not alone and I support your passion for the truth and understanding of this natural world we are fortunate enough to experience. You are doing the right thing, you have left the cult.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  2. wisdom4u2

    I believe in God, the Father almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth.

    I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and was buried.
    He descended into hell.
    The third day he rose again from the dead.
    He ascended into heaven
    and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
    From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Edwardo

      I believe you are delusional!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      It really doesn't matter what you believe, fool! LOL!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      I believe repeating the same prayer over and over citing unproven beliefs proves your are part of a cult.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      Who repeats this prayer over and over? This is my belief, Fool!!!

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

      @Wisdom – Isn't the bible specific about calling people "fools". Doesn't it say calling someone a fool, puts you in danger of hell's fire. Proof of your hypocricy, is in every sentence you type. FOOL !

      June 12, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      It is the apostles creed, as such it is not YOUR belief, it is what you were TOLD to believe. Think for yourself, FOOL

      June 12, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • zeyn2010

      One's religion depends on where on earth they are born....

      June 12, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      @ Edwardo ~~~~ Fool, Fool, and Fool!!!!!

      June 12, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      @ Just Claims, No Truth ~~~~ No one tells me what to believe…I believe what I want believe. And,
      I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      maker of heaven and earth.
      I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
      born of the virgin Mary,
      suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried.
      He descended into hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended into heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Kindness

      I hear you wisdom4u2.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:13 am |
  3. Auntie

    I am not going to comment on this blog. Not one word. Nope. I'm not going to waste my time arguing over non-practical issues with a bunch of haters with the proclivity to vitiate the beliefs of others. Not going to waste a second. I'm not to even going to mention religion or god or athiest. Not a word. Not one word. No sir. It's a waste of time that I will not indulge in for a minute. Not one word, not one. Commenting on this blog is pointless and makes me weary, so I'll avoid it all together. Waste of time, precious time.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Edwardo

      Put that crack pipe down! If intellectual conversation doesn't stimulate you, go watch some youtube videos.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • Auntie

      Edwardo, what you may think is intellectual is actually childishly importunate and psuedo-erudite in most cases. Not a word...not one word.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Jen

      And yet you keep wasting your time. You already lied.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Edwardo

      @Auntie – I hardly think I'm childish. I'm a computer programmer. I am very well to do. I have a Bachelor's degree. I'm a loving father, brother, and husband. Your assumption that I'm childish, is assinine.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Auntie

      The fact that I posted a comment that was supposed to be funny and got defensive and prodding responses proves the point of the original comment. You people need to get the hair on the back of your necks to lay down and feel some love. If you want to prove athiests are people too, feel some love. If you want to prove you are like Jesus, feel some love. Not a word...

      June 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  4. WU

    Thank God. OK pun intended. The millenials are waking up to the other global scams as well....which is the only hope for us. Rejecting the demi-gods and hoax gods and all of the scams these belief systems support and perpetrate on the human race and returning to the wisdom of our mother earth while we still have time.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  5. wasserball

    I believe in God because there is no other way of explaining the beginning of matter in the universe.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Geez, that makes a whole lot of sense!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • zeyn2010

      So, you give up and say "it can never be understood"? Look at our scientific and technological advancements in the last 100 years! Can you imagine how much more we will be able to understand and explain in another 1000 years?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      why isn't "i don't know" an acceptable answer? when you don't know something, do you always just make up an answer to satisfy yourself? how do you expect to find the real answer when you believe false ones?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • Edwardo

      So, who created the creator? Your logic is circular. Circular logic must be dismissed as a proof of an idea or concept.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      Answers that explain everything, explain nothing.

      Saying "God did it" is lazy...

      June 12, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • yeahalright

      So you can't comprehend how it could begin (neither can I), but are perfectly fine with an entire definition and mythology built up around a supernatural being???

      Who created god btw?

      June 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  6. GLE

    No sweetie, science will simply confirm that our faith has been right all along. Ask Josh McDowell :-p

    June 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • zeyn2010

      And will be able to explain the god.gods mentioned in the religious texts.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      Name one thing religion asserted as being true that science later proved to be actually true, just ONE...

      June 12, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • CMJ

      "Just Claims, No Truth

      Name one thing religion asserted as being true that science later proved to be actually true, just ONE..."

      Okay ask any one who studies ancient history and they will agree that Jesus was real and was hung on the cross. You only asked for one.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  7. NorthernPike

    Even if I am the only one left in our nation to have faith in God, I will never lose it. However, Noel makes many good points. I for one no longer attend church on a regular basis because it is not a church but a theater. I feel one should look up to an alter and down onto a stage yet the reverse has become the norm. Also, my priests always have the congregation applaud the musical performers and the special attendees which in my mind is simply sacraligous. And crying rooms are nolonger used so the babies are allowed to make all kinds of noise while I am trying to worship. Very inconsiderate by mothers who are there showing off their offspring only to bolster thier pride. The Lord knows how I feel. I speak with him every day. So as long as I am a good and simple person, he will continue to watch over me. And remember this, Faith is something choosen that requires no proof whatsoever. Having belief in his existance is a falicy by those who feel the need for proof he exists yet will never get it. His spirit is everywhere and in all of us. It's simply our choice to have the strength to recognise it with faith, not belief.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Your foolish drivel hurts my brain.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Madtown

      You don't need church at all. A church is a building, constructed by men. You want to worship God? Great, what better way to do it, then to go into a place actually built by God, and not man? Take a walk in the woods.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Edwardo

      Once "infected" with a religious belief, it is difficult to cleanse. You will always have the belief, as it has instilled itself into your psyche. Many are called, few are chosen... to be freed of this infection.

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

      Get mental help. You're talking with things that aren't there.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  8. Jeff

    Ancient Aliens... they are the gods of the past and what were written about...

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

      don't look to far into it - they just stopped at earth to pee.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • zeyn2010

      That theory makes sense actually. I do also think the possibility of an ancient advanced civilization having been wiped out by a cataclysm and the survivors having taken advantage of the primitive cultures on earth scenario being another possibility (like the 'cargo of the gods cult' effect). Knowing about all the religious texts across the continents, the ancient megaliths like Puma Punku, Baalbek, Gobekli Tepe, the great pyramid of Giza, etc. there are only those two possibilities that come to mind.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  9. Chef Sun

    I favour Zeus and the Olympians. As a backup plan, I deify Odin in Asgard. I am pretty well covered. Cheers.

    Chef Sun

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

      well i know it won't by Dionysus. that's dude always drunk and going to o.rgies - "yeah, yeah, i'll start training tomorrow. go tell the redhead with the nice @ss to bring daddy Dionysus some more wine."

      June 12, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  10. UncleM

    There's hope for America yet. Another couple of generations and we'll be free of these fairytales and religious bigots.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • Nick

      Amen, praise jes-uhhh, yeah. I can't wait.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  11. wisdom4u2

    Fools! Any wonder why the world is the way that it is? NOT! It has all be foretold.... and the devil is a liar!

    June 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      If you believe in a devil then you surely are the fool.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      you'll see....now won't you?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      I'll see what? Please, you are just plain nuts.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      You're your father's NUTS!!!!

      June 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  12. keyser

    That's because the younger generation is smarter and can see through the bs.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  13. us_1776

    Atheist Proud !!

    God is a prehistoric concept created by ancient rulers who needed to use fear at a distance in order to keep their subjects in line.

    .

    June 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  14. jesuslovesall

    Everyone have a hope. A hope to wake up to live a next day, a hope to provide for their family. A hope that when they die they will be at peace. Jesus is that hope for life. In a weird way, non believers give us the God fearing hope . Jesus is so great they can't believe it, so they rather close their eyes and kick rocks around the God who made us, died for us and give us life if we choose to accept it.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Madtown

      What about great people throughout the world who've never heard of Jesus, through no fault of their own? What will happen to them?

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

      Santa Claus is pretty great. Ever read about Zeus? Talk about great! They're so great you close your eyes to them!

      June 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • jesuslovesall

      In revelations he said those who don't know the depths of Satan, he'll spare them the burden.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • jesuslovesall

      All non believers do is mock and joke around. It is written. There will be mockers. Yet non believers are blind to their own future.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Madtown

      jesuslovesall
      In revelations he said those who don't know the depths of Satan, he'll spare them the burden.
      -----
      Who "said" in Revelation? Neither Jesus nor God wrote Revelation.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  15. Rober'

    Nothing could be healthier for this planet and all mankind than a reduction of the number of idiots who buy that crap. Best and most uplifting item in the news in a long time.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  16. Bootyfunk

    Bible Fun Fact:
    Are you female? Have you ever engaged in premarital s.ex? Even if you're married now, did you have s.ex even once before you were married? maybe when you were a teenager? 98% of American women have. Do you know what the bible says is the punishment for such wh.orish behavior? Let's check and see:

    "But if this thing be true, and the tokens of v.irginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the wh.ore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you." (Deuteronomy 22: 20-21)

    Well, looks like we must drag the non-virgin woman to her father's doorstep and there, with help from the whole town, stone her to death. Sorry 98% of women, Yahweh says you have to die. I'm guessing you're going to Hell, too. (Please note this punishment does not apply to men who do the exact same thing.)

    *** I’d wager that last 2% of women left after we stone the rest to death will be right popular with the fellas.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • jesuslovesall

      The law came by moses, but grace come by Lord Jesus. We are under grace. Not law. Stop being a Antichrist and be loving.

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

      Haha, except my guess is that 2 per cent is probably the least attractive of the gender (hence why they are still virgins).....

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

      "The law came by moses, but grace come by Lord Jesus. We are under grace. Not law. Stop being a Antichrist and be loving."

      i'm confused - the 'grace' of the law to kill all non-virgin women came from a 'loving' god?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  17. G2010

    i have to agree.. going to church these days and people go there now for more of just a social gathering i think. just look at the way you see people there these days... flip flops, shorts, t-shirts. years ago. u had to dress proper or people would snicker. now, i even see people texting thru a sermon. the pews certainly arent as full as they used to be either.
    the younger generation are put off by rules and regulations made centuries ago!

    June 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Madtown

      I know it's shocking to realize, but times do change. Times have always changed. That's a constant of this world.....change. Roll with it, or get rolled over by it.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  18. JakeAZ

    one can pray in school whenever they want. nobody is stopping kids from praying when they want in school. what you want is every one to be FORCED to pray to the same god as you.

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

      that was supposed to be in response to another post...

      June 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  19. Doc_78

    Doubt in which God? Zeus, Jupiter, Odin, Chalmecatecuhtli, Gukumatz or perhaps the millions of other man made fairy tales?

    June 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Mike

      How can you be so sure that God doesn't exist. I think is very arrogant on you part to be so willing to say something like that when now we don't even have a space shuttle to make it out of earth orbit.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • JakeAZ

      exactly we're all atheists. christians doubt zeus, yet they can't prove that he doesn't exist. why can't they just have a little faith?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      Doc, you heathen unbeliever! The power of Thor will smite thee!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Mike

      Lack of evidence. Without evidence, there's no reason to accept the claims.

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

      I like that Doc. The reasoning for this silly stuff seems to go along the lines of well, you can't disprove a negative. Something Aristotle and his successors would call a logical fallacy (false reasoning). But it does look like critical thinking is making a comeback in the younger generation.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      Mike,

      I am not sure a god doesn't exist however unlikely. I am sure your god does not exist though.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  20. mickey1313

    It is sad that som many still believe in this bygone faith. Absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

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

      @mickey1313

      You should clarify that that doesn't apply to all situations. More accurately it would be where one would expect evidence, the absence of evidence is the evidence of absence.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • lisa

      You cant say there is no" GOD" if you havent sought to find him. The bible says, " seek" and ye shall find. I did just that and believe me I found there is a "TRUE GOD". 25 years later my husband seen all the evidence and started out to find GOD, and He did too. It was a life changing experience for even our kids and his family too who was doubting. If for no other reason then all the propheys in the bible that are coming to pass right now, that were written over 2000 years ago. This generation does not seek GOD like pass generations did. Seek with all your heart and you will find.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • B Boyd

      Actually, the expression is: "Abence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence"

      June 12, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @lisa

      Been there, done that

      @B Boyd

      And that is generally true, except in the cases where evidence is expected. For instance, if I tell you I have an indoor cat, the absence of a litterbox, cat dish, cat food, cat hairs, and a myriad of other things that you would expect is evidence of the absence of a cat.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
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About this blog

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.