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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. meles

    How can only 40% of surveyed persons doubt the existence of god?
    I mean, this is the 21 century, and education is more available than in any other period of human history.
    But then again, this is America, the most backward among developed countries, in so many respects...

    June 13, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • tacc2

      Because when you tell children that misinformation is truth from a very young age, it's amazingly hard for them to overcome that conditioning. I wonder how many people would still believe their religious fairy tales if they weren't introduced to them until after their formative years.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  2. george washington

    Science can not prove that God doesn't exist, but It can't prove God does exist either.
    Religion can't prove anything, that's why they call it faith.
    Believing in religious doctrine can be wrong, but so can believing in science (science has been incorrect)
    Constantly question your beliefs, if they can not withstand questioning, they are not worth believing in.

    June 13, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • richunix

      You would be better served if you understand this: argumentum ad ignorantiam or "appeal to ignorance

      June 13, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Frank

      It's appalling how many people do not even know what science is. You disgrace the name of the father of our country.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • NoTheism

      here's the problem with your argument, I don't think that religion (as a whole) is false (clearly, religion exists), but I do think that most, if not all of them, make false claims. There's a huge difference.. Your argument is a classic example of a composition fallacy.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Trumpy

      But at least science is willing to admit that it can be wrong and will change in the light of new evidence. In fact, it is the dictate of scientists to always be on the lookout for new, even potentially disruptive, evidence. Science is based on the empirical evidence known up until that point (which is rational) and happily self-correcting as new evidence is discovered.

      Religion not only claims absolute, unchanging truth, but often demands death or banishment for those that dare question it.

      Yes, science has been wrong, but so has religion. The difference is, when science discovered its errors, like say that the earth orbited the sun instead of the other way around, science sought to publish that information freely and educate others. Religion sought to lock-up the scientists who dared publish such information as heretics and force them to recant in the face of personal, financial, and social ruination if they would not.

      I'll take science any day.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Hal A. Louya

      You can't compare religion to science. It's like comparing astronomy to astrology. Of course science gets things wrong. That is how it works. Science corrects itself when new evidence comes along to alter the past thinking, and of course god can't be proven. The burden of proof is for the claimant to produce. How can one prove that fire-breathing spaghetti monsters don't exist!?

      June 13, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • richunix

      Thanks, for tmakingcorrection with the correct fallacy "NoTheism" 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • george washington

      Never said that religion is false, please learn reading comprehension.
      Ignorance is bliss to Frank and Rich. Your comments make no sense and are just babbling.

      June 13, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Primewonk

      Science doesn't prove anything. Science explains things. Proofs are for maths and ethanol.

      Science only concerns itself with the natural realm. Any god or gods worth his or her salts, claims supernatural properties. This means that a god or gods is not falsifiable. And if it isn't falsifiable, it isn't science.

      June 13, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • george washington

      Believing in religious doctrine can be wrong, but so can believing in science (science has been incorrect)
      Change this to
      Blindly believing in religious doctrine can be wrong, but so can blindly believing in science (science has been incorrect)

      Of course science and religion aren't comparable.... that's the point.... seems that many people missed that.

      Wow, it's amazing how some people just want to hear (or read) themselves, without learning to listen to (or read) other.

      Shut your pie hole and know your role......

      June 13, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Madtown

      Science seeks to find the holes in it's own developed theories, to learn and refine. Religion shuns the notion of questioning, and seeks to cover the gaping holes in it's own developed theories.

      June 13, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  3. Saint Patrick

    For the people that don’t believe. Road that you are following is into the abyss. "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever,” The devil is doing a great job on the few. It is our job to teach and help people to see the word of God. But, in the end it is up to you. It is you who going to be judged alone. The greatest lie the Devil ever told was convincing humanity that he didn't exist

    June 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Rick James

      "OOGA BOOGA BOOGA" is the gist of your whole post. You have no proof of God, so stop trying to frighten people.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Horus

      Prove it.... the crazy thing about assertions is that a little bit of reason and evidence go a long way. You have neither.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Hank Danger

      I see you've watched the Usual Suspects. Very profound.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      God and Satan are your imaginary friends, for the adults of the world imaginary friends are not required.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • WOW

      @Saint: Good comments. The time is drawing near.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Jokesterer

      Pain is just your nerve endings telling you to move away from danger. How do souls feel pain with no nerve endings?

      June 13, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Horus

      @WOW – the time has been drawing near for over 2000 years according to the kooks. I honestly wish it would come and go so we'd be left with rational people and a tolerant peaceful planet.......

      June 13, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • richunix

      Actually, that’s the Christian version, Under the Jewish belief Ha-Satan is an angel of God, doing what god request.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • MK

      Don't you see. They told you there was a devil so that you would have some way to justify your "naughty" actions. And when you are naughty, you must come back to church and be forgiven, otherwise you'll burn in h*ll. So you BETTER believe and come to our church or ELSE! (And give us your money while you're there.) It's all a scare tactic, Patrick. To keep you coming back.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • tacc2

      Really? In the 21st century there are still people like this who think the devil is out to get them. It's enough to make one totally lose all faith in humanity.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • snowboarder

      any religion that requires belief under threat of eternal torment is undeniably false.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Trumpy

      Here's the thing Pat, for those that don't believe...Bible quotes telling them the foolishness of not believing are pointless. I don't believe in the claims of the Bible, so using the Bible to try to convince me to believe in the Bible is just silly.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • karl

      We no longer believe the ramblings of one priest or of an archaic indoctrination that suggests creationsim is a rational thought. Maybe its time you start realizing the difference between the technological age and the mythological. Religion was created not only as a control but to explain factors in our life that no longer require such whimsicial answers....We know why the sun rises every morning...we don't need a sun god to answer a basic physics concept. Start using your brain or keep it in church..

      Id pick hell over heaven anytime...much more interesting people and better parties.... You attempt to go somewhere ETERANL and not get sick of it

      June 13, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Primewonk

      I don't believe in Santa Claus. So telling me I need to believe in Santa Claus, and claiming that the song, "Santa Claus is coming to town" is proof of his existence, is not going to get you very far.

      June 13, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  4. athieat are liars too

    athieat are liars too

    June 13, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Rick James

      Did they teach spelling in Bible class?

      June 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Horus

      Everyone lies; even to themselves. It's called cognitive dissonance. What's your point?

      June 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      What is an athieat?

      June 13, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Hal A. Louya

      Aren't we all?

      June 13, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • richunix

      You don't have to be an Atheist or a Christian to a lair: This is what I was taught so many years ago, when I attended the Police Academy:

      “Everyone lies and Everyone tells the truth”

      June 13, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  5. Sam

    This is a step forward for humanity. When will we stop this horrific and sickening act of indoctrinating our children into our religions. This is done at a young age before the child's brain is fully developed out of fear that if you wait too long the child will learn to think for himself. What's more atrocious is that it's parents doing it to their own CHILDREN, their own life and blood! My children, if I have any, will always be able to think what they like, and although I'm an atheist I would let them pick and choose a religion if they liked it.

    June 13, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Trumpy

      Amen!

      June 13, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  6. JUSTSAYIN

    Well it would take an athiest to say doubts about God are growing? the problem with mankind is the fact that we think we are the end all and be all. When you raise a generation not to trust and believe then what do you expect? If no one teaches (because they've pulled it out of school) if families don't show it (divorce and single-parenting) and if no one talks about it (media like this article that TRIES to get people to become an unbeliever) then this 'poll' may very well be valid. GMAB...Believe what you will, GOD gives us all free will TO CHOOSE HIM. It's not forced...I'd rather choose to believe than choose not when my time comes. I can say for myself...I LOVE YOU GOD, JESUS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN YOU! =) HAVE A GREAT DAY, IN JESUS NAME AMEN. It's alright people just breathe.

    June 13, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Rick James

      Where did you guys come up with the idea that atheists are immoral?

      June 13, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • NoTheism

      Which god are you talking about?
      "he problem with mankind is the fact that we think we are the end all and be all" ... many of us believe that there is a good chance that aliens exist.. in fact, that is much more probable than a god
      If you want to wish me good day, do so without invoking your god please.. Statistically speaking, it is bad 'luck' (look at Harvard prayer study), also, it is disrespectful.. I don't say to you 'have a good day in the name of satan', do I????
      Thanks.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Name*Chedar

      There was a family of very devoted Christian that moved to a subdivision. The subdivision is located below the hill. When there was a flush flood, the mud came running down to their house. Both husband and wife could not save their children ( the mud buried their children inside the bedroom) while the couple run out of their house to save their own lives. The father shouted " Now I know there is no God".

      June 13, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Rational

      So, you say God gives you free will to choose. God, being all-knowing and all-powerful, knows which you will choose even before you do. Then, if you choose incorrectly, he punishes you with eternal damnation? In fact, he must have known your choice before he created you, so he created someone who he knew he was going to damn.

      What a d-bag.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • ME II

      "Well it would take an athiest to say doubts about God are growing?"
      So, if it's true then believers would lie... is that what you're saying?

      June 13, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • WOW

      @Justsayin: Amen

      June 13, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Shadowflash1522

      Being "free to choose god" is like saying "I am perfectly free to choose Snickers" when it's the only option on the candy rack. You are presenting a false choice.

      Plus, the whole "believe or go to hell" is not unlike "pick Snickers or I'll shoot you". If that's not force, then what is?

      June 13, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Papasan

      It is forced upon us. Everytime one takes their child to bible school, church, etc. and teach them at a young age that if they don't believe they will burn in hell. Stop the child abuse. Stop the lie.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Dennis

      Good post justsayin...Be proud to stand up for your beliefs, as proud to stand as the atheist are over their lack of believing.
      Life is a choice and we have to live with the ones we make and do not make. God owns us and that makes atheist very angry because they are still full of themsleves and all the BS of the world and it's limited intelligence that has blinded them to the truth. "The truth shall set you free" but only when you seek HIM will you ever find it. HE IS "the life the truth and the way".
      You cannot explain a spiritual answer to a carnal mind so until they experience it for real they will continue to doubt. I know there is a God because I know him personally.

      June 13, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  7. mark

    Ok...so if there is only supposed to be ONE god...how come there are sooooo many to choose from? And being you can choose.....how do you know if you picked the "right" one?? we're just damned for all times! 🙂

    It's all hogwash.

    June 13, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  8. JBH

    Hang on...there's a doubt about faith?

    Heh...

    June 13, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  9. mrTestosteroni

    If you doubt the existence of god, maybe try Buddhism. It is deity free. and peace loving

    June 13, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      There is polytheistic Buddhism.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Tom

      If it is deity free, wouldn't that make it more of a philosophy than a religion?

      June 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  10. Trumpy

    Good. May the trend continue.

    June 13, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  11. iminim

    In a society where belief in God has been equated to a particular political philosophy, is this a surprise? The Christian religion really shot itself in the foot when it went for political power by acting like just another eathly power seeking group.

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

    I believe that the Bible teaches that we as humans will not understand everything, but ALL questions will be answered in Heaven, and that is what's called FAITH, it takes a LOT of FAITH to believe something exists w/o having to see it or experiencing it to believe it

    June 13, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Horus

      The same logic you use to justify your own leap of faith can be used to justify ANY god; therefore to be logical, you must embrace ALL gods for the same reason you justify one.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Hal A. Louya

      Can you be more specific? This faith thing eludes me. I have tried to have faith but the more I learn about the universe we reside in, failth just seems to be so small of an explanation.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      umm if all questions will be answered in heaven what happens to those who dont believe like you do? they never get the answers or they get them to late?

      June 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Sam

      Oh really? Is that what you believe? Honestly? That's what YOU believe? Or is that what you've been told to believe your whole life.

      I thought your answer was so cute, it's like asking a little kid if Santa exists and how the presents got under the tree.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  13. realist

    No doubts here; flat-out disbelief. Sure, there are things we don't yet understand, but what a cop-out to dismiss them all as "oh it must be God's doing."

    To those of you who are religious, please consider:

    1) "Atheist" is not a synonym for "immoral devil-worshipper"
    2) Gods and goddesses were invented back when there was a lack of understanding and a need for certain people to establish control
    3) Humankind started out as secular; religion is a fairly recent invention
    4) The Bible was not written by God; it has been rewritten and edited constantly
    5) If your religion is "The One," and people from other religions think that THEIR religion is "The One," doesn't that mean you are ALL going to burn in Hell??

    June 13, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • paco128

      tell you what, ask God to come in to your life and really mean it and just see what happens.your life will be changed FOREVER

      June 13, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      paco128: Imaginary friends like your god are just that-IMAGINARY!! There is no evidence to justify that your god ever existed outside of the buybull.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  14. Hank Danger

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJSfdN68AsI&w=640&h=360]

    June 13, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  15. god

    I wish more people would stop worshiping me...its very distracting

    June 13, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  16. chefdugan

    It's about time people started thinking for themselves rather that listen to some jerk up on a pulpit and relying on that work of fiction called the bible. The bible has some great things to offer but it is NOT the word or the work of God as the non-thinking christians believe. The more we examine it the weaker organized religion will become and the cleaner the world will be.

    June 13, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  17. tacc2

    Thank god! There may be some hope for these kids yet. People need to stop believing in fairy tales.

    June 13, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • paco128

      you don't have to believe. those of us that do,will have peace

      June 13, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • NoTheism

      @paco, "those of us that do,will have peace" if the is an afterlife that corresponds to your belief system. I don't want to insult you, but I would suggest you consider Pascal's Wager and its problems.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Shammalammadingdong

      Kind of funny that you don't believe in god, yet just thanked him in your post.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • MK

      It's so arrogant to say that there is no other way to "peace" except through believing in a god. It's arrogant to say that your life is unfulfilled if you don't have religion. It's arrogant to think that you are immoral unless you have a book or a list of rules telling you how to act. It's arrogant to say that you are special or saved because you belong to a certain church.

      It's all false and it's all arrogant.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • JBH

      Hey Paco, did you see what you did there? You used your faith in your deity to put down someone else. Is that how your religion works? Is it there to make you feel superior? Examine that and ask why.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Ironhouse

      I was about to say the same thing. I bet free and progressive thought is up by the same percent this is down.

      June 13, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  18. snowboarder

    in this age of information, it is not surprising that people are not so easily convinced to follow any particular religion. i can't imagine anyone who actually takes to time to learn about the myriad of competing religions and deities that have existed over the millenia and willingly submit to any of them.

    June 13, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  19. Leucadia Bob

    REGGAE IS MAKING A HUGE COMEBACK
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5efiY16g5A&w=640&h=360]

    June 13, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Reggae is crap!!!

      June 13, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Devil made me do it

      Reggae is awesome. Go listen to some top 40 garbage.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Devil

      So, in you're idiotic mind, people either listen to top forty pop music or reggae. Sucks to be you.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  20. Jokesterer

    Athiests could help their cause with some severe reward and punishment system. Try telling people that if you believe in God, you'll burn in fire forever. But if you don't believe in God, you'll walk streets of gold and eat fancy feasts forever. You might try throwing in a perpetual virgin too.

    June 13, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • NoTheism

      their 'cause'? You do know what an atheist is, right? It isn't like saying Catholic or Sunni or whatever.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Jokesterer

      When you take out advertising space saying, "You have a choice," it sounds like trying to win over converts. Whenever you look for converts, you have a cause.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Rational

      Trying to wake people up and think for themselves is not an attempt to "convert" them.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Jokesterer

      Waking people up is still a cause.

      June 13, 2012 at 10:21 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.