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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. ttwp

    This is no surprise. The Bible said in the latter days that many would fall away from the faith. But those that know the Lord will never be put to shame.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • NeonKnight

      Shame on you.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Primewonk

      You nutters have been proclaiming we are in end times for 2,000 years. Each and every time, you have been wrong.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • sam stone

      The great part of this gig is that every generation thinks theirs is the "end time". Annnnny time now, Jeebus is coming.....annnnnny time now.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Oh no! The End Times!
      Keep your eyes peeled for 7 headed dragons snacking on pregnant wh/ores, as prophesied in Revelation.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Oakspar

      I don't disagree with your understanding, but I do caution you about reversing the logic. Do not assume that just because some are falling away among the youth of the USoA, that it must be the "end times." America is not the center of the universe, and greater empires have fallen before leaving faith to rise from the ashes.

      There is nothing to stop America from losing her faith during her decline, only to have faith renew itself somewhere else in the world (Korea or Kenya, for example). After all, America's faith grew as Europe's fell.

      Also, this is a survey of young people living in a trying time, when faith is always tested. Many will find faith as their lives improve through the coming years (if the economy recovers). I say this, not because faith is weak and reactionary, but because people are.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  2. sweebach

     
    If belief in God inspires good behaviour, then it has value. . . It is more important to ask "Are the millenials behaving well" than "Do the millenials believe in God" . . . Christian theology inspired by the Apostle Paul (not Jesus interestingly) overemphasizes "belief" . . . next time you are hurt by someone's behaviour, ask yourself whether you care what they "believe" . . .

    June 13, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  3. Honey Badger Dont Care

    It's been estimated that by 2038 that the religious in America will finally be the minority. I wish that I could fast forward to that day.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I really wouldn't bet on it.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Christian are already in the minority

      June 13, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  4. Richard

    The reason that 95% of those asked responded that "they never doubted the existence of god" is because they know that is the expected answer. They've been socialized to respond to THAT question with THAT answer. They last paragraph with Mr. Galef's comment sums it up perfectly.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  5. citizen4

    Here's what atheism is really all about: "If there is no God, I am responsible to nobody but myself, and I can do anything I want."
    This leads to the following: "There is no God, and I hate him."

    June 13, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Frank

      Is that like "there are no leprachauns and I hate them"?...lol....grow a brain.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Ever heard of misotheism? Or cognitive functionality, for that matter?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • fleur

      Please explain your logic here.

      What atheism is about for me is "there is no God and no higher meaning except that which we make for ourselves, so we by necessity are all responsible to each other – otherwise life is meaningless and suffering will grow."

      June 13, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Gabe

      Here's what atheism is really about: "I don't believe in a man in the sky watching over me so when I do good it is because I am a good person, not because I am scared of going to hell or want the reward of going to heaven".

      June 13, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Everybody was right, you really are an idiot.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • ttwp

      Sad...but true.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • HenryMiller

      How can you hate what doesn't exist?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      The is no Santa Clause and I HATE him.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • sam stone

      citizen...welcome to the non-sequitors club. we may not make sense, but we like pizza

      June 13, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • AGuest9

      "and I can do anything I want." Absolutely. You sound surprised. Has the church stopped teaching free will in the last 20 years?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Funny how no one goes on a blog to describe how they don't believe in leprechauns.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • J

      Look at the replies to your post, and some of the post afterward. Can I get a Proverbs 18:2?

      "A fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions."

      There is a guy I've watched on youtube Jacque Fresco. He is 94 years old and in all of his "knowledge" is still trying to find answers about the human condition. Good luck with that, what a waste of 94 years. He will see in the end. The atheist and science community always does while on their death bed. I pray he sees truth before he dies, that's my prayer.

      As Romans 9:15 states: I will have mercy on whom he will have mercy!

      Spending your whole life bashing religious people is no better than the religious fanatics of the crusades or today's Muslims. Off course that's in the plan also to turn the tides on religious people mainly christians. Gee I wonder why? Probably because its truth. You don't see alot of news about bashing buddist monks now adays. Matthew 10:22 and 24:9

      Keep thinking its a fairy tale!

      June 13, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  6. Matt

    skepticism is my nature, freethought my methodology, Agnostism my conclusion, Athiesm my opinion & humantarism my motivation...

    June 13, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      My motivation is greed, but I agree with you on all the other counts.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  7. David

    The survey question is rather hard to read: The statement contains double negative "never doubt"
    Do you agree or disagree with this statement
    I never doubt the existence of God...maybe should be written
    I sometimes doubt the existence of God.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  8. Matt

    "Religion is what the Common people believe to be true...the WISE to be false and the RULERS as useful"

    June 13, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • yesorno

      That is what is going on.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      As a ruler once said

      "You may not believe in it and I may not believe in it but gosh darn it it's a useful hypocrisy".

      June 13, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  9. AGuest9

    At least the younger set aren't being buffaloed like their parents and grandparents were.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  10. Evangenital

    The Bible is a Fairy Tale Book. Faith tell us to believe in magic. He did not walk on water or made vino from water. He was a mad man with a heart of gold. Nice, but not a god.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  11. R Bryant

    This is truly sad.. I myself, could not imagine not believing in and loving GOD.....

    June 13, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Evangenital

      Those are your needs.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • sam stone

      Good for you. Not everyone needs it.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Chris

      Your belief in something despite any evidence for it is SAD.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Frank

      Yes, it is truly sad that you find you must suffer from a delusion in order to have meaning.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • sybaris

      Which god?

      There is just as much evidence for one as there is for any other.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Mark Bailey

      The saddest thing about the religious is that the REAL STORY is so much more interesting and "magical" than their contrived belief system. The Universe as it is is so much more grand than the imagined fairytale of our ancestors. Where did these tales come from anyway? They came from an attempt to explain nature without having any background knowledge about how nature actually works on a fundamental level. We have those fundamentals now and the religious explanation now emerges in the daylight as rather childish.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • jaman

      Wake up from your dream. Belief in something with no evidence is not required by every person.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  12. Craboo

    Educated people now know that god is about as real as Santa Clause. Their is no evidence and it was made up by man, the only reason people started to believe in the first place is if you did not you would be murdered in the name of the church. Gods will.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      As a child, I heard footsteps and sleigh bells on my roof on Christmas Eve, so there is more proof that Santa exists.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Mike from CT

      "Their is no evidence and it was made up by man"

      Then there must be evidence for the above statement, or else you would fall victim to the same "logic"?
      Please Explain.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Craboo

      My explanation is science has answers for how everything got here and evolved based on fact and theory. Their is no fact or educated theory behind most religions.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • bigfish

      Your grammatical perfection proves that you are indeed very well educated.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Mark

      Educated people know the difference between their and there. I pray to my God to enlighten you.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Craboo

      Thanks, its great to have English teachers sit in on the CNN message boards.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Mike from CT

      Fact and theory.... like true and false.

      So give us the facts as to why we exist? And the facts behind the resurrected Christ?

      June 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  13. Tman

    society is getting more sophisticated and God is being replaced with belief in UFOs and extraterrestrials. Over half of Americans believe UFOs are real.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Chris

      society is getting more advanced and realize that the universe is controlled by all powerful wrathful god. it just science. for some reason people find that scary. maybe its because they need to be scared into being good to avoid a hell, or they are scared they wont get their own personal golden palace when they die

      June 13, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Chris

      Is not. why would spell check turn isnt into is?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I don't know if UFOs are real, but it would take an act of great stupidity and self importance to say there are no alien life-forms out there.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Mark

      How would believing in extraterrestrials in this dimension preclude the belief of God in the dimension of heaven after our earthbound existence? Are you afraid that we are really more than you can see and hear?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  14. coryandfaith@gmail.com

    I Timothy 4:1-3 "But the spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. By means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth

    God bless our nation, our president, and our leaders, and let your truth shine in this darkness, in JESUS name

    June 13, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      And blah blah blah, oogah boogah, mumbo jumbo to you too.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • sam stone

      wow, a quote from a book of edited, translated iron age hearsay. you don't get any more convincing than that.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  15. JD

    I can only feel sorry for those who have not experienced the feeling of knowing God.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      I can only feel pity for those who've been sucked into a fantasy world of invisible, supernatural beings in the sky.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  16. Todd

    I think it is partly to the Religious Extremists out there. They plant an image of the ultra conservative, vengeful God. Who would really want to follow a God who hates people who you have found to be good people. Also the Religious Extremists are so Anti-Science, I makes the young person feel like if you believe in God you need to throw away a lot of rational learning. It is less of growth in Atheism but a rejection of old school religion. Who's message isn't adapting well into a modern culture.
    When the bible was written many of the rules made sense, there wasn't any knowledge about microorganisms that make you sick, the Economic of the time had a lot of effort in estate planning (short life spans means, who is going to get your stuff), The human population was small, and there were a lot of resources. These rules either passed down by God, or from some very intelligent people, helped the growth and spreading of culture and rational thinking... However a lot of things have changed, Culture spreading has peaked. Resources are getting more scarce. We are over populated. It is time to realize we had followed Gods commandments, and he has passed the touch to us. We need to realize that what God said in the past may no longer be relevant. Just as you tell your children to stay away from the stove, when they get older you want them to learn how to cook and use the stove.
    Religions need to realize these new changes and analyse the Word of God, and figure out what laws and rules are useful or what rules no longer make sense.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Craboo

      Why don't they just make up new rules? It is common knowledge man wrote the bible why not just rewrite it.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Mike from CT

      Except for the original ten commandments sure

      But the problem is everything else is written by man so why believe it, including your statement.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Craboo

      Oh yeah I forgot the 10 commandments fell from the sky, lol.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  17. Douglas

    Light dawns on Marblehead. What took so long?

    June 13, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  18. LON

    Simply a parallel to what the Obama regime is pushing off on America. Vote his a** out in November and let us take our country AND OUR VALUES back!

    June 13, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • Philcomix

      Take "YOUR VALUES" and jam 'em, Sparky

      June 13, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Pedro

      What values? Slavery and killing native americans?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Primewonk

      What does Article VI, Section 3 of the US Constîtution say? How about Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Your values are archaic mythology and superst!tious nonsense. No thanks.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • yesorno

      This country on value is greed.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • AGuest9

      Values? The same that sparked the murderous rampage of the Crusades, and the sadism of the Inquisition? Murdering, arresting and silencing scientists who discover the nature of reality was done in the name of christian values, remember?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • sam stone

      Ah, making this a political statement. Congrats on getting those synapses to fire.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • sam stone

      Maybe the values you are talking about involve hanging people because their skin is darker than yours, or denying women the right to vote, or gays the right to marry. Come on, big mouth, tell us of those "values".

      June 13, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • ballgame

      Lon,

      I dont see what Obama has to do with this. I myself am a Christian. Obama has absolutely no affect on my ability to freely worship God. Obama isnt the problem here. The problem is that there are too many hypocritical Christians that say one thing, and do another. There are too many of us that are ok with being a "follower of Christ" on Sundays, but dont have a real testimony that glorifies God.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Matt

      Everyone has their own values and should be free to do as they like. That's why it is good to live in a free society. Let's hope that never changes.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  19. NickZadick

    This article is flawed... they should not say "god"... they should say "god according to the writings of the tribesmen of a part of the middle east which called they scribblings christianity"

    June 13, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • Pedro

      And that has been rewritten to the whim of emperors and popes… and translated how many times?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Mike from CT

      Actually it was call Judaism first, then The Way, then Christians, but lets not concern ourselves with facts.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:20 am |
  20. observer1776

    The under 30's are affected by propaganda and do not take the time to look at the evidence about Jesus, which is great.
    What Jesus said, what He did and who He was fact: Ergo, God is fact.. The propaganda emphasizes self above all.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • NickZadick

      what evidence?? ancient fairy tales?? pleasssssse!! break free of your brainwashing!!!

      June 13, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • LON

      observer1776 HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD

      June 13, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      The only evidence I see is how gullible and ignorant people are to believe that ancient mythology and superst!tious nonsense has anything at all to do with reality.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • sam stone

      Observer: You sure seem to have an issue confusing fact with opinion

      June 13, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      If you blame propaganda for lack of belief, is it not also responsible for belief in teh older generation?
      American culture is awash in Christian propaganda, though the prevalence of such has declined in these last couple of decades. Instant, global communication has allowed the modern generation to be exposed to ideologies beyond that of their immediate culturual surroundings.
      More information means the capacity to make more informed decisions.
      Exposure to different ideas, opinions, cultures etc. is breaking down the stigma around moral relativism. Instead of being something to be feared, it is now accepted as the way things are.
      Those who are unable to accept that Shintoism is just as valid a religion as Judaism (for example) are being dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era, but pandora's box is open.
      It is nigh impossible to shield people from "heretical" ideas in the information age.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      The under 30's are not affected by religious propaganda and took the time to look at the evidence about Jesus, which is non-existent.
      What Jesus said, what he did and who he was made up strorys: Ergo, God is made up.. The propaganda emphasizes reason above all.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • aginghippy

      Gotta love the circular logic: How do you know Jesus is the son of God? Because the Bible tells me so. Why do you believe the Bible? Because it is the word of God. How do you know the Bible is the word of God? Because the Bible tells me so.
      Pathetic.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:11 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.