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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. On my knees for God's pleasure

    "There is no god except Allah and Muhammad is his messenger" makes as much sense as "Jesus died for your sins."

    June 13, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • Pakicetinae

      Well said, perfectly sound and can define faith...

      June 13, 2012 at 5:36 am |
    • Pakicetinae

      Both your name and comment, that is.. 😉

      June 13, 2012 at 5:37 am |
    • Truth

      Satan didnt want to serve God either so I guess we know who you stand with.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:39 am |
  2. heroicslugtest

    Excellent. Glad to hear that America is finally dropping this garbage in greater numbers.

    Cue Professor Farnsworth: Good news, everyone!

    June 13, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • ong

      When fully two thirds of young adults of one of the most industrialized and technical nations still belive stone age myths with full conviction in the 21st century, there's little reason to celebrate a small trend.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:45 am |
  3. Joxer the Mighty

    The bickering between the religious and non-religious is ridiculous on this website! Regardless what either of you believe, your opponents belief is possible regardless of how unlikely you think it is. Why can't you people get along and have honest discussions instead of just insulting each other's intelligence?

    June 13, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • Overnights are boring

      Because we're human. were you born yesterday? this is what we do...

      June 13, 2012 at 5:32 am |
    • ong

      There's nothing open to debate or honest discussion. Those who take seriously the myths and legends of thousands years past don't belong to modern society, but a mental asylum. The fact that we don't have one large enough to hold them does not legitimize their "beliefs".

      June 13, 2012 at 5:53 am |
  4. On my knees for God's pleasure

    ohhh man, I only came here for the comment section! What fun!

    June 13, 2012 at 5:27 am |
  5. IslandAtheist

    Good riddance!

    June 13, 2012 at 5:23 am |
    • jeriwho

      Modern American Christian evangelicalism has so trivialized God, avoided those particular commands of His that they don't like, and turned Christianity into a prosperity-seeking, political-power oriented monster (with a pretty good number of child molesters in pulpits) that it is no wonder they are failing to evangelize the nation. Christian Evangelicalism has ceased to be convincing because it fails the Gospel that it claims to preach. It is nothing like the religion that Jesus Christ preached.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:32 am |
  6. Rachel

    Do you know WHY there is ore doubt about God today than ever before? It's because of the gays who are coming out of the woodwork, screaming for equality yet fighting against the sins that God has laid before us. They know deep down that gay practice is forbidden by our great Creator so the only way gays can justify being 'normal' and without sin is to denounce God altogether.

    And they do... with a vengeance.

    God help our innocent children.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:14 am |
    • Name*Chedar

      Sorry who programmer a robot mind like yours. I bet you missed your class in physics or you don't understand what tour teacher teaches you in high school. You poor sentient being that led to believe someone created you. Foolish and gullible to even think there is a talking snake probably in your head communicating these nonsense.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:21 am |
    • Overnights are boring

      @Rachel

      Do they world a favor and take a long walk off a short cliff. defending your god by attacking the gays? you're all the same. pathetic. im sure you think being gay is a choice too huh? why are you on CNN anyways? shouldnt you be spreading hate on FOX News's website? with your own kind?

      June 13, 2012 at 5:21 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      And where are your facts to back up that ridiculous statement?

      June 13, 2012 at 5:22 am |
    • pascalzG

      Yes the gays! Man, all this time i thought it was the Jews... no wait the poor, no wait women... ,wait what century is it? Oh yeah, never mind i'm capable of using multiple sources to form a conclusion and not just one book, a bunch of books about that one book and media that is explicitly pro Christianity and anti-gay... [SARCAZM]

      Same story, different antagonist. When are the Christians going to start using a different tactic? Like that fire and brimstone their always going on about.

      PS there are gay Christians… you’d think God would deal with the “internal” violators…. Just saying

      June 13, 2012 at 5:25 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      i wouldn't ask god to help your children, he's known for killing children, according to the bible. murdered the first born sons of egypt, send a bear to kill 42 children because one made fun of a bald prophet, kill every single child/babe on earth in the great flood except perhaps those of noah's family. yeah, i'd hide my children from god, to be safe.

      and your h.omophobia obviously springs from the christian dogma you follow. christianity is hateful and teaches bigotry, h.omophobia and misogyny. that's why it's going away. christianity had its chance to rule - they call that era the Dark Ages.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:26 am |
    • heroicslugtest

      Your god won't help our innocent children. He doesn't exist.

      If you want to help children, donate time or money. You know... real things.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      @Bootyfunk The definition of Christianity in it's most simplest terms is following the teachings of Jesus. If you go by this definition you are completely wrong about Christianity teaching hate and bigotry. That is the big difference between Christianity and Fundamental Christianity that obsesses with the old testament laws the leaders of the fundamental Church use to control their herd of sheep.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:33 am |
    • Truth

      Being gay is as much a choice as being hetero. Some people choose to go back and forth between the two is that genetic also or a choice?

      June 13, 2012 at 5:36 am |
    • sam stone

      That's right, Rachel...it's the gays fighting for equal rights. How dare they? Do you spend a lot of time on your knees?

      June 13, 2012 at 5:40 am |
  7. pascalzG

    God is good... God is fake?

    I hope that one day this argument will be settled, but i doubt that will ever be possible. The burden of proof is on both believers and non-believers. Beyond that, it's your person BELIEF, based on what ever YOU decide is "reasonable". A burning bush or the Koran or a century of scientific discover and philosophical arguments based on fact and reason; it doesn't matter what you say is the basis for your belief when a "valid" rebuttal is "prove it" or "disprove it"

    Just don't use your book to rule MY life. I could care less what you believe if you respect that what I believe is just as likely.

    Also, I wonder if the Christian God is fake and the Greek Gods are actually real? Don't agree with me? Prove it's not true!

    June 13, 2012 at 5:10 am |
    • Name*Chedar

      Only your consciousness tells you that everything happening is real. But quantum mechanics and the latest M and other theories prove otherwise that everything is there and yet it is not there. The scientist is proving more and more that we are the creation of our very existence. This is taught by the Buddha in his sutras 2500 yrs ago.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:16 am |
    • Mike

      II can't EVEN begin to tell you how many 'confused' scientists I know.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:19 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      "The burden of proof is on both believers and non-believers"
      no. the burden of proof is squarely upon the one making the claim. if i claim my cat is the messiah, i have to prove it - you don't have to disprove anything. otherwise, by that logic, since you can't prove my cat isn't the messiah, she must be. otherwise, have christians prove zeus, odin or ra don't exist. since they can't does, that mean the lead gods of those pantheons do in fact exist? of course not. same with the christian god.

      think of this. non-believers don't ask for very much to change their minds and believe in god. it's very simple. we just want proof. shouldn't be too hard, yet it's proven to be very very difficult. there is zero proof for the existence of any god. if god appeared to everyone in the world at the same time or we could really talk to him (and i mean a real conversation, not prayer), we'd convert in a hot second. if we found some material made out of 'magic' instead of something on the periodic table, we'd call that proof. if people could do some of the miracles that are so common in the bible, we'd call that proof. so that's all we want - some realistic reason to believe in what seems to be fairy tales.

      now ask a religious person what it would take for them to stop believing? see what answer you get. most likely, something like "there is nothing that can shake my faith in jesus christ and the lord above" or some affirmation of their devotion to yahweh. basically, they're saying there's nothing that can stop them from believing. now ask yourself - who's more reasonable and who will not listen to reason?

      June 13, 2012 at 5:21 am |
    • Truth

      Jesus already proved he was the one true messiah. Now all you have to do is choose whether you beleive or not. God was the creator of choice also.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:38 am |
  8. jbkorn02

    Organized religion has started almost every war from the begining of history. I'm sure way before things were recorded a tribe that worshiped the sun wiped out another who worshiped the moon or something similar. The only thing they are there for now is to take your money. If someone want's to believe in something that is fine but ask yourself why you are asked to pay money to build giant places to pray. The craziest I've seen is the main Mormon temple. It has to have costed more than a small country to build that.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • Keksi

      You scream intelligence.

      What religion started WW1 and WW2 which caused close to 90 million dead people??

      Apparently you also dont see any lavish monuments built by atheist,its all around you.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:16 am |
    • AbdAllah

      So which religion started WWI? How about Vietnam, or Grenada, or Iraq, or the Cold War, how about the Prussian war, or the Punic war? What about the American Civil War? Most wars were fought over land and wealth or simply put Patriotic Pride and Greed which lay at the core of the U.S. binding fabric being that it is a Capitalist country and all and one of the most (if not The most) patriotic countries in existence.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:09 am |
  9. polycarp pio

    To those with faith no explaination is necessary, to those without faith no explaination is possible. PP

    June 13, 2012 at 5:01 am |
    • Pakicetinae

      So,
      those with Imaginary friends, no need to tell them there is no imaginary thing
      and..
      for those who deny imaginary friend, ah...it is very hard to explain to them that listen..... There are imaginary friends, different for all the regions, and they are real and they have created us....
      Flying Tea Pots and spaghetti monster

      June 13, 2012 at 5:07 am |
    • jbkorn02

      That would be fine if the people who actually believed in things that were proven were the ones making our laws.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:10 am |
  10. polycarp pio

    I could pray for your long dead relative to be raised from the dead and most of you still would not believe. You would find some scientific reason why uncle Jim who has been dead for 5 years and suddenly came back to life , was only in a state of suspended animation with no brain waves or respirations and therefore was not technically dead, even though his body was rotted out and practically dust. PP

    June 13, 2012 at 5:00 am |
    • metoogabba

      Look at you, praying people back from the dead?
      Your mom must be proud of your Satanic powers and necromancy!

      June 13, 2012 at 5:23 am |
    • What IF

      polycarp pio
      "I could pray for your long dead relative to be raised from the dead and most of you still would not believe"

      Go ahead and do it then, poly. Try us...

      June 13, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  11. polycarp pio

    CNN I have yet to read an article on here that has something good to say about old fashioned Christianity. All the time, something about "gays" this charlatan or that preacher is a crook, or that priest is a pedophile. You guys are the most antichrist media outlet I have ever run across. No wonder the under 30 crowd is atheistic listening to the junk on here and the crap in their college text books. PP

    June 13, 2012 at 4:54 am |
    • Jim

      And they protect their child molesting buddies in hollywood and government and within there ranks to.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:00 am |
  12. truth

    The real question is, if there was 100% proof provided that God was real. And if you were on Gods side you couldnt sin anymore and if on Satans side you could do what you wanted to which side would you choose. The answers should be interesting!

    June 13, 2012 at 4:54 am |
  13. Preston Lucas

    Scary..... yet another thing that the Bible predicted.....
    Even though warned, we just float down the path of destruction..

    June 13, 2012 at 4:45 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      You could find a Bible verse that predicted Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction or the release date of the iPhone 8. Why is it that an article about religious belief in only the US, a country with 4.5% of the world's population, fulfills Biblical prophecy? Is it just because you happen to live here?

      June 13, 2012 at 4:54 am |
    • truth

      Biblical prophecy was established at the fall of man in Genesis prior to Jews or Christianity.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:57 am |
  14. truth

    Isaiah 47 >>
    New International Version 1984

    10You have trusted in your wickedness

    and have said, ‘No one sees me.’

    Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you

    when you say to yourself,

    ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’

    June 13, 2012 at 4:42 am |
    • Pakicetinae

      you cannot reply on the basic concept of "Is there any GOD" from the supposed words of God my friend.
      Quran says words like this also, does that means that Islam is ... ?

      June 13, 2012 at 4:55 am |
    • truth

      Not for the heathens

      June 13, 2012 at 4:58 am |
    • Pakicetinae

      does not make any sense to rationality, for religious person, yes...

      June 13, 2012 at 5:00 am |
    • Truth

      For having eyes you cannot see nor ears to hear

      June 13, 2012 at 5:41 am |
  15. Mustafa

    Ok atheism is on the screen again? But they were defeated before. On the mountains of Jerusalem, deserts of Mecca and Gardens of Andulus. They will be defeated again and again and again....

    June 13, 2012 at 4:29 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      Can you perhaps provide any more contemporary examples? I am not sure there were actually atheists in the antiquity of which you speak...

      June 13, 2012 at 4:41 am |
    • Mustafa

      Religion is historical but atheism is not? It is unscientific and unequal. You should find the psychological roots of atheism. Do not afraid.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:02 am |
    • Pakicetinae

      Mustafa the answer please, which fight you are talking about?
      and you can make your mind as happy as you want...... there will still be NO GOD

      June 13, 2012 at 5:04 am |
    • Mustafa

      Should I fight somebody so you can be happy with your ideological ideas. This can be the proof of atheism?

      There is only one GOD. The God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac. He is ALLAH. Everybody who pray in the Synagogues, Churches and Mosques know that. They cry when they heard the name of GOD. They spend their money to the poor. They have respect to their mothers and fathers. This verses have already written in the book of Moses and Abraham. Did not you hear?

      June 13, 2012 at 5:34 am |
  16. Herby Sagues

    Wow. Americans are becoming rational? Go figure.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:17 am |
  17. adrifter

    I'm an atheist. (Or a heathen, as my father calls me.) There is nothing that a believer can say that will convince me that there is a god. I have read a lot of religious books and have thought about it over the years. The idea of a god seemed to be preposterous to me 30 years ago and it still seems ridiculous. And, I'm sorry, but I can't respect religious beliefs. I can respect the person, but I can't respect what they believe in if it is obviously nonsense.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:17 am |
    • DeWayne

      My dear fellow, you'll know one day for sure wontcha.........

      June 13, 2012 at 4:30 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      @DeWayne – actually, no. None of us will likely know. Even saying that suggests there is definitely an afterlife. If there is none, you will die without knowing it. However, your hypoxia during brain death will likely simulate it quite nicely, so believers probably do die thinking they are going toward heaven.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:36 am |
    • truth

      Sounds like you have died before.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:49 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      @truth – Coincidentally, yes, I was dead for a few minutes as a baby after apparently having an asthma attack, but I was obviously resuscitated. However, I have no memory of the experience, so there is no relevance to the point of my previous statement.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:59 am |
  18. EinZuschauer

    Serious doubts about the validity and usefulness of polling is growing among educated adults worldwide

    June 13, 2012 at 4:09 am |
  19. Fahd

    Used to be a practicing Muslim till 2nd Dec 2011, 32 Years and 7 month ...
    then I realized that there is nothing !!!!!
    now I am A-Theist, and I have removed all my fears.
    but I have not started committing crimes !!!! Morals can be followed without religion.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:07 am |
    • Fahd

      oh yes, here is the shock, I am from Pakistan, and let me tell you, there are others like me here. very few but yes there is

      June 13, 2012 at 4:10 am |
    • Herby Sagues

      Congrats on your enlightening. And welcome to a life without fear.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:18 am |
    • Fahd

      Thank you Herby, I cannot explain in words how good and how light I feel.
      but I do feel sad for my countrymen, their useless fanatic believes and I regrets my 32 years and 7 months.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:20 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      Congratulations, Fahd. I trust this is likely a secret you cannot share where you are and I offer my respect and well wishes for having the courage of your convictions in a part of the world so hostile toward your conclusion.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • Fahd

      Dear ScienceSoma,

      thank you for your encouragement.
      you cannot be more right. some time I want to shout and tell every one that listen, what are you doing?
      but I would die the next minute, a brutal death.

      you know no one tried to convince me for this, I came to the conclusion my self, Thanks to great help by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and SAM Harris work. but can I tell you a secret ? I am dying to tell any one about it.... I started as a quest to prove Christianity wrong, but what I found was so over whelming wrong, that the basic concept of GOD died in front of me. and all the illogical things in Islam become a slap in my face.
      any ways.. I am pass that...and never be the same.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:30 am |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Fahd,
      "I regrets my 32 years and 7 months."

      No regrets, ok?... as long as you were peaceful and kind and did not harm people. Who better to enlighten others than one who is well-schooled in the beliefs and is intimately familiar with the emotions that go along with them?

      Be careful and be gentle.

      Best regards to you.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:40 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      Fahd – I can feel your excitement and enthusiasm for what you have learned coming through, but please be very careful. If you are not killed, you can easily be shunned and have your livelihood taken away. Hopefully you can find others and share with them. If not, the atheists of the internet are always welcoming and excited to have you.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:44 am |
    • Fahd

      Thank you A Frayed Knot, actually I need advise like this.
      I am in a state where I can be careless, you are right, I need to be careful.
      but trust me my friend, I never harmed any one in my life, including 32years and 7 months. I was not the aggressive one from the beginning.
      Most of my countrymen are not . but they are brain washed and brain washed every single day. you can imagine if they take a child from age of 3 to Islamic school, what they can do with him? he is a bomb from beginning.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:47 am |
    • Keksi

      Pakistani that speaks better English than most Americans???

      Interesting.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:21 am |
    • Fahd

      Keksi, I will take it as a compliment.
      I suddenly feels like a GOD, I have to prove my existence !!!! 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 5:25 am |
  20. Quietkiwi

    Satan is the only evil infecting the weakness of mans mind.
    Argue abuse and contradict all day and night the story is simple.
    Good versus bad.
    Heaven and hell on earth who has dominion?
    God.

    June 13, 2012 at 3:59 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      Prove it.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:15 am |
    • Herby Sagues

      You mean Satan as in a red guy with a long pointy tail, horns and wings? Or as in a non-existent, imaginary being? Religious folks tend to swap the meaning quickly to their convenience.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:19 am |
    • Ken Granderson

      People who view everything as opposites are only displaying their lack of knowledge and / or mental capability.

      Religion works well for them, as faith frees you from having to actually think about things, or learn that there are always more than two sides to everything,

      June 13, 2012 at 4:25 am |
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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.