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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. Brandon johns

    30 ISN'T OLD!!! WHEN ARE PEOPLE GOING TO GET RID OF THIS STIGMA THAT 30 IS OLD OR MIDDLE AGE?? IT IS VERY YOUNG THESE DAYS!! NO ONE EVEN MENTIONED THAT IN THE VIDEO, YET THE ARTICLE IMPLIES THAT. BTW THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION COMPRISES THE YEARS 1980-2000. PEOPLE BORN IN 1980-82 ARE NOW IN THEIR EARLY 30S.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:22 am |
  2. correctlycenter

    Atheists are quick to dismiss God but cannot properly explain how the heavens and the earth and all living things on it came into existence! They think people who believe in God are weak-minded and simple, really? What's really simple minded and silly to me is to think that our great-great-great ancestors were apes or pond fish! God bless...

    August 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • really

      There are plenty of reasonable explanations, none of which invoke the supernatural.

      And even if it comes to light that evolution is completely, 100% incorrect, this doesn't make the fairy-tale creation story true. Also – just for future reference – nobody is saying that our ancestors were apes. Apes and humans had a *common ancestor.*

      August 12, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • T-Max73

      I truly think you'd do well to actually study what evolutionary theory entails. It does NOT say we evolved from apes or chimps. Regardless, your comment is loaded with non sequiturs; your conclusions do not follow your premise.

      August 14, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Anonymous

      My biggest issue with natural creation is the thought of the laws of the universe (physical/evolutionary) just appearing. Do I think some guy on a cloud pulled out a list and started going "I want some things to be harder to move then others!" Hell no, but the thought that there isn't a guiding force that deserves respect for doing something humans will never be able to do has always bugged me.

      August 14, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • xirume

      SO you find it silly to believe we came from apes or fish, but you have no issue being totally convinced that we came from mud dummies blown to life by a bearded, old white man???? My belly hurts at how hard I just laughed at your incredible mental midgetry.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  3. spartyon

    Looks like my generation, with technology to quickly fact check whatever the pastor says after mass, is finally getting it. I think the only reason why people believe in God is because they're scared of death.They want to live forever instead of becoming worm food, instead of entering into a state of utter non-existence. We as humans don't like death, and if we're presented with an opportunity to avoid it (i.e. religion), then we would believe in the most ridiculous, illogical things out there (the world being created in six days), deny wel-tested facts (evolution), and deny entire segments of the population (gays, women) of their basic rights, all for the sake of wanting to live forever.

    August 11, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Robert

      LOL. Really? ok, you just keep believing what you believe. As far as 'fact checking" , the FACT is God is real as you will see one day. I pray for your sake it is not too late.

      August 13, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  4. fryuujin

    going to change politics in the future when the hateful christians die off, then who will be the puppets voting for the gop?

    August 10, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Anonymous

      Be careful how you word things my friend. If you appear you have a vendetta against one specific religion, you'll be branded being "just angry at ______". That doesn't help the "All religion is bad!" movement.

      August 14, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  5. awasis

    Finally

    August 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Robert

      This is nothing new. Young people always pray less than older people. It's not until later on that they realize the truth and fully come to realize the truth that is God.

      August 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Kris

      @Robert

      Correction. It's when they get older that they realize their mortality and start to fear death, and so they cling to any ridiculous idea.

      August 23, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  6. jeru0455

    The ultimate proof of evolution is that humans are still so undeveloped and imperfect that they could actually believe in a god!

    August 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Anonymous

      It works both ways my friend, remember that.

      August 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  7. El Flaco

    You can't see, feel, hear, taste, or smell God. God never DOES anything so far as I can tell.

    People who believe in God do not seem to be better people; many of them are downright evil. Many are stupid. Many are uneducated.

    People who believe in God are not luckier, richer, or better looking than people who don't believe in God.

    God does not appear to answer prayers. Praying for something to happen is just like waiting for something to happen.

    If God existed yesterday but suddenly stopped existing last night at midnight, how would we know it?

    There is just as much proof for the existence of Jupiter as there is for the existence of Yahweh.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Food for thought

      Well, Jupiter exists

      July 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Food for thought

      I believe this sums up my views perfectly.
      “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is.” Albert Camus. True Christians don't have pastors/priests raping little children. True Christians don't speak of love in the church then go support the war effort the next second or say "god is on your side" True Christians don't claim every natural disaster or horrific tragedy is "an act from god". True Christians don't act hateful torwards others who are not of their religious or moral standpoint. True Christians don't say god is a loving creator yet next second say you're going to hell for not joining their church. True Christians strive to respect everyone, regardless of racial and national backgrounds. True Christians do not get involved in politics. Now, with this information, who would you say are true Christians? And I'm not forcing my beliefs on anyone, atheists or otherwise. If you don't believe in God, fine. If you wanna call Jehovah/Yaheweh/God a fantasy or adult fairy tale, fine by me. If you would go so far as to call me a delusional sociopath, be my guest. This is a world full of many opinions and beliefs, and I am open to all of them :).

      July 30, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      So then, No True Scotsman and Pascal's Wager, how "original".

      July 30, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  8. to christians

    when you understand why you reject thor, zeus, jupiter, and all other gods except your own, then you will understand why I reject your God

    we are all atheist, i just believe in one less god than you do.

    July 28, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Robert

      You CAN'T reject 'our' God, because he is YOUR God, too. There is one and only one God. Someday you will realize this fact. I pray for your soul that it will not be too late.

      August 13, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • cc

      @Robert do you not understand that he doesn't exist? You seem to have a hard time with that. It's ok you don't get punished for believing in fairy tails, although I'm starting to think maybe you should.

      August 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  9. Cthulhu

    MY EVIL IS DEEPER THAN THE PIT OF THE SEA!!!

    July 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  10. UIHP

    It seems Christianity in America has nothing to do with good values any more, at least not my understanding of good values. Supporting hate and discrimination seem to be the Christians top priority. It has nothing to do with wether or not you believe in god anymore its: do you hate gay people?, will you give money to the church so we can use it against gay people?, and will you vote for the most religious presedential candidate regardless of wether or not you think they will be the best choice? If you answer yes to all of these you can call yourself a Christian. If there are any non hateful Christians out there, I suggest speaking up because your letting your peers turn everyone in this country into an Athiest. Or maybe that would be a good thing?

    July 27, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Tigerhawk

      UIHP...I agree completely. I am Christian, but have a hard time tolerating Christians who judge and push their false agendas on everyone. I also have a hard time with the atheists on here who mock Christians with their sky fairy quotes and mockery of our "naive" beliefs. Love, respect, and humility are three big items that Jesus taught....and are great traits whether you think he was divine or not (no scholars argue against Jesus being a legitimate historical figure for the small ignorant lot on here). Maybe some of the Atheists and Christians on here can grow up and start loving, respecting, and having some humility. It's not that difficult.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • really

      Tigerhawk –

      G. A. Wells is very well known for his take on whether Jesus was a real person (there are many others). So your assertion that no scholar doubts his existence is false. How about keeping the 'ignorant' card in your pocket?

      August 12, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  11. tim

    I believe in God, what I think hangs alot of people up, christians such as myself, is trying to take the bible 100 percent literally, you cant do that, its a reference

    July 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • UIHP

      Yes and I'm very tired of Christians choosing what they want to live by in the bible and getting away with things because "it says it in the bible". I thought it was just something to use as a reference to live well by, not as an excuse to deny rights to an entire portion of the population?

      July 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  12. syzito

    As people get older they start thinking about their up coming death and what if anything is next.This usually leads a person to start a quest about the meaning of life.Is life just a collection of atoms that happened to form accidentally into consciousness and self awareness?Is life an accident of evolution? Is that even rational and logical?What about the evidence from various sources that points to an intelligence behind the existence of the universe?If evidence exist then what is this intelligence and where does it come from? Maybe one of the many different religions is correct and their god does exist and does have a plan and goal for life.If so, which one? All can not be correct because they all contradict each other out of the possibility of being true.All of the various religions can be false,but it's impossible for all of them to be correct. This leads to a decision based on the investigation that has been performed and the person decides which religion to embrace and which ones to dismiss as myths and fantasy. This is why the older you are the more religious a person usually is.....death is around the corner and can not be avoided. One of only two things will occur [there are no other choices]....your consciousness [you] will be tied to the functioning brain and when it ceases to function you no longer exist or after your body dies you remain conscious and fully aware.....this leads to... why,how,what purpose,by what means are you still you and aware?God?A freak of evolution? How you answer depends on your investigation and what you have decided is true and what is false.

    July 23, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • CC

      There is absolutely no evidence supporting intelligent design. Plenty supporting evolution.

      August 5, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • CC

      Also from what I can tell, people get less religious as they get older. They seem to finally realize it's better to think for yourself then let someone do it and let you pay them for it. religions are all money and control based. If there was a all powerful fairy in the sky,m\ why would he care what you do on your Sunday mornings?

      August 5, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  13. Russ

    Why is this surprising? So many of the bible pounding nuts in our country... come across as bible pounding nuts. The priest from a few weeks ago who wanted to round up gays and put them in concentration camps and saw nothing wrong with it. Do I want to be like that guy? Do I want to even be around people like that? No. I don't think beliefs like that are in any way good or virtuous. Are there good people who believe in god of any faith? Sure, there are many of them. But the predominant picture in media is of this nutball hatemonger, just like the terrorists for the muslims. It makes the whole package unattractive to the young, hyper media savvy generation.

    July 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  14. PraiseTheLard

    This is terrible!!!! They didn't even specify which of the thousands of made-up Gods these people didn't believe in...

    July 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Big DD

      I hope they are not referring to Odin, High Father of Asgard.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Tigerhawk

      I know Praise...."those people" who believe in God(s) are almost as crazy as those people who believe that life, order in the universe/Earth, DNA, etc. all seeming to display very solid evidence of intelligent design..... just came out of nowhere!

      Go grab the rest of your ultra-atheist friends (most atheists are very reasonable and respectful) and the judging/extremist religious friends (a proportion of religious people are also open minded and respectful)....and allow the rest of us reasonable folks to respectfully and openly (as a Christian I agree many atheist opinions are strong) co-exist. Please??

      July 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • jeru0455

      Tigerhawk is a person that clearly doesn't understand evolution.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • CC

      @ Tigerhawk Trying to have a scientific/logical discussion with religious people is like trying to explain Newton's laws to my cat. Won't happen, although he seems to understand the first 2. HAHAHAH

      August 5, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  15. Stan

    Most people don't know enough about religion or the history of the world to make any informed decision. Listen to this kid with glasses talk about G-d? What the heck does he know? Of course he wants a life with no obligations.
    Just remember what no G-d brought us...Hitler and Stalin...what did G-d inspire? The United States. Without G-d, who grants us any rights? The United Nations? Our Military?

    July 20, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Which "god" did you have in mind? There have been so many...

      July 21, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Sam

      Nut job...remember the 'trail of tears' 'slavery', what Christians did to Hawaii

      July 27, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • jeru0455

      Society grants us rights. We grant eachother rights. There is no need for god anywhere in that equation.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • CC

      Stan you might very well be one of the dumbest people on the internet. Think about it (I know it's hard for you), atheist don't do things because there is no god or their beliefs. We just do things with a non religious reason or motivation. Religious people on the other hands do things BECAUSE of their beliefs. Do you understand the difference? Ever hear of the crusades?

      August 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  16. ___-___

    Most Christians don't even know what the Bible says. If they actually took the time to read it, they wouldn't believe in it.

    July 18, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Kalessin

      Ecc. 10:19

      July 18, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • I've read it

      I've read it many many times some places 20 to 30 Some parts are spoken every day...

      i've read it so many times and there is absolutely no doubt about God because.......He's real !! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      hea ! Baby! 🙂

      July 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Stan

      Most people don't know enough about religion or the history of the world to make any informed decision. Listen to this kid with glasses talk about G-d? What the heck does he know? Of course he wants a life with no obligations.
      Just remember what no G-d brought us...Hitler and Stalin...what did G-d inspire? The United States. Without G-d, who grants us any rights? The United Nations? Our Military?

      July 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • CC

      @ I've read it Wow just wow. You reading comprehension skills are brutal.

      Stan stop posting the same nonsense, it doesn';t make it any realer to post it multiple times.

      August 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  17. Skep

    A question for all of you Christian Fundamentalists. If we both believe in God and Jesus we likely both partake in the ritual of Communion. In the Biblical story of the Last Supper Jesus says "Take this bread and eat it, it is my body. Take this wine and drink it, it is my blood. Do this in remembrance of me." Should we take this literally? Are we really eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus? If I consider this symbolic and you consider it literal which of us is correct? Isn't one of us "more holy" or "more Christian" than the other?

    July 18, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • I've read it

      The Word of God is flesh... the Spirit of the Lord si the blood... that's the way I see it 🙂 🙂 🙂
      no you let me know if you see it better than me 🙂

      July 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • CC

      @ I've read it – Sure no problem god doesn't exists, there is nothing to see or understand he just doesn't. He is a creation of man to control other men. Simple and brilliant really, since it still works 2000 years later. Exhibit A you!

      August 5, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  18. Skep

    We are all aware of the political and social activism of the Christian Right. Why isn't the Christian Left more active?

    July 18, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • I've read it

      Most of us in the left believe in the first amendment more than those hypocrits on the right do ... 🙂 🙂 🙂

      those on the right feel intimidated by challenges to their faith ... and need protections to maintain their pretense LOL

      Now i double dog dare anyone from the relgious riech to say different

      July 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • jeru0455

      There is no such thing as the Christian left. Left=intelligent and insightful Christian=border line down syndrome. The two cannot exist simultaniously.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  19. lornadoone

    No other person is better known throughout the world than Jesus Christ.....Even by others who may not personally believe in his divinity.....He came down as man and this was witnessed by many....."I came not for the just but the injust.....There are some who are not of this fold, I too shall gather them!" Perhaps some people are disbelievers because they have had personal hardship or disappointment in their lives? But on our death beds I truly do not believe that a person remains an atheist....God will make his presence known to them as well.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • lornadoone

      AND WHY? BECAUSE HE LOVES THEM TOO and wants for no soul to be lost....Why does this scare so many people?

      July 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Perhaps you would like to provide some proof for your not-so-scary bullsh!t...

      July 18, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • TomPaine

      Perhaps the idea of an all-knowing, all powerful, perfect being creating an imperfect world with imperfect creatures (us), an act which will eventually require that he spends a blink of his eternal life as a human who must die violently in order to correct the result of his imperfect creation, is just too symbolic and inelegant for a lot of people.

      July 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • I've read it

      the onlypeople scared appears to be those who need to express their religious views to everybody else even when they don't want to hear it...

      why not explore a littel go to a Muslim nations....I mean , here there ar so many other interests ...

      like right now you are here to propose your ideas yet you accuse others of beign afraind ...if they are afraid they woudl be intimidated by religius knowit all like you but they are not....

      it may be that religioius knowit alla remore intimidated.. yes? 🙂 🙂

      July 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  20. TomPaine

    Everyone is an atheist, at least to some degree, when you consider that most people don't believe in any of the possible gods except one. Is this because of careful research into what all the religions claim and finding the one that makes sense to them? No, it's because adults tell children a particular religion is true and, unlike Santa, never reveal anything different so they continue to believe what they were told as children into adulthood. How else do you explain different religions being predominant in different parts of the world?

    July 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • I've read it

      I am 100% absolute not athiest ... there is Zero percent doubt...I know God by direct contact...exactly as it is written and described in the bible...there has never been adoubt since thast direct contact was made 34+ years ago..

      YOU ASSUME TOO MUCH or shall I say presume.. Now the reason why you presume is because you don't know.!!! you actually decided for everyone what they are ( believe) in your post...and while I should condemn mysefl for responding to such ignorance , I could not let it pass since someone else might be as presumptive as you are and believe a LIE ..

      as the scripture says, many shall believe a lie and be damned...
      I have only to say at the last that teh gospel of Christ is true... and have to also apologize for the so many mis lead spokespersons for him... forgive us 🙂

      July 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Chris

      Actually Christians are pretty much forced to believe in other religions as well since it references some of their practices i.e. the lady necromancer who raised the dead. The Bible never says "Hey its just me". It only says "worship only me". Any true Atheist would read the Bible before they made a decision. I don't buy a car unless I know as much about it as I can.

      August 3, 2012 at 4:06 am |
    • CC

      @ I've read it If you think you have come in to contact with god directly please seek medical attention, you have a serious mental issue. Believe what you want but don't lie. Also don't quote scripture to atheist we do not recognize any religion or its texts as being valid. Might as well quote from any other book.

      August 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.