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. ForGoodOfAll

    There is hope for the future of America after all! Take religion out of politics for a better tomorrow.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • iubj

      it is pathetic it is that high... but that is what happens when it is ALL grand parents talk about.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:09 am |
    • Keksi

      Are you saying you are planing to remove One Eye from dollar bill????

      June 13, 2012 at 2:58 am |
    • Vince

      AMEN!! Lets reset the system while were at it...

      June 14, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  2. BOb the Prairie Dog

    The Millennials get it: NO ONE knows what happens when we die and ANYONE claiming such knowledge is a LIAR who probably wants your MONEY.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Notso Sheep

      That's pretty straight to the point Bob!

      June 12, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yeah that's it. 32% of the people under thirty understand the meaning of life the universe and everything. Let's follow them.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • 1234LISA1234

      Read the work of Carl Wicklend, Sweedenborg, Edgar Cayce., among many. We are responsable for the welfare of those who die i igrence and shpreferably learn the way to help a person in distress out of ignorence.
      We have work to do helping the so called dead. We have to understand that a person is a consciousness that is merged with a human body some time after birth. That there are other consciousnesses around that influence the person where we get double personality or tripple. The personality lives on, needs sincere contact to be directed towards being useful, using it's imagination and help people being usefull toothers.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      LISA, summer school classes are going to begin shortly. Are you registered?

      June 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • jrv420

      Bill, that is such an immature response, typical of your type. Ad hominems and generalizations when logic is thrown in your face.

      August 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  3. 1221

    When it's hammered into the cultural norm through the media on a daily basis, what do you expect? CNN is like the spearhead at the front lines of the atheist religion. The powers that be want the state as the new world religion, so out with the old and in with the new. I know it will get under the skin of you "intellectual" wannabes, but the divine won't just cease to exists just because of your BELIEF. So mote it be.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Huebert

      The "divine" only exist BECAUSE of our belief.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Kent Mills

      Once again, atheism is NOT a religion, no matter how many time you refer to it as such. It is a philosophical theory, and one which, unlike religion, is based on rigorous reasoning. That is the very last thing that can be said about religion.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • jayman419

      If She or He has a problem with it, I'm sure they'll say something. But if god continues to leave us to our own devices, I'll have to trust my own heart over the empty words of another mortal being standing there with their hands out for my money.

      If my sin is pride, then so mote it be.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      And the "divine" won't EXIST because of your FAITH.

      June 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • iubj

      EXACTLY when this "GOD" stuff is hammered into a childs brain since birth what do YOU expect......
      THANKFULLY more people are using their brains as they grow up and not accepting fairy tales as fact

      June 13, 2012 at 2:11 am |
  4. Jawl

    In a CNN poll about God you would expect a tepid response from fellow liberals modern liberalism is the complete Anti-God state of mind. Think I am crazy. Just step onto an American college campus or read literature from the NEA. Liberals hate GOD.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • JWT

      Actually I don't hate god – I cannot hate that which does not exist.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Kent Mills

      No, liberals think the belief in god is stupid, that's all. We do, however, stingily dislike those who would, without invitation, foist religion on us.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • jayman419

      Maybe if god was a decent being, we wouldn't feel so upset about things. But to listen to the church say it is a religion of love, then watch them spend countless hours and millions of dollars trying to oppress and depress anyone who disagrees, or who dares to love outside of their narrow definition of permissible, makes it very difficult.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Hating a being created by someone's delusions is pointless. Ridiculing a delusion is required.

      June 12, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Oh Really

      I don't hate God or Allah any more than I hate Santa Claus, Batman, or Luke Skywalker. They're all fictional characters.

      June 12, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • iubj

      cant hate that which does not exist.....

      June 13, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • bembol

      The invisible and the non-existent look very much the same. – Anon

      June 14, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • Skep

      @Jawl You are wrong. I am a liberal. I teach at an American college. I do not hate God. Liberalism is not anti-God.

      July 18, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  5. John Stefanyszyn

    The majority of North Americans, and peoples of other nations, say that they do not doubt the existence of God.
    Satan and his angels, Eve and Adam did not either doubt the existence of the One Creator God.
    ...but they chose to be free from Him so that they would be free to do their own will, their self-rights, to know good and evil.

    How great is the rejection of the One Creator God and of His Son the Christ, when one claims to know that They exist and yet one embraces and glorifies a way of life which desires to do one's own will, one's own freedom in his self-rights?
    ....and making Christ into a "religion" among religions and denying the Preeminence of Yahweh, the One and Only Creator God.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Stopabortion

      Well said....

      June 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • jayman419

      I am perfect, just as god made me. And I live my life according to the faculties with which he blessed me.

      If He wanted creatures who were capable of nothing more than blind obedience, he never would have breathed into the dirt in the first place.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Tyler Friedline

      @ john You are completely wrong in saying that most of the world believes in god. Quantified globally, only about 33% of people believe in god. America is one of the few industrialized nations not following the global trend. My question to all christians is would you give a damn about god if, you didn't think you were going to live forever. Also, what makes you think he gives a damn about you?

      June 29, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  6. RJ

    When the Son of man returns will He find faith on the earth?

    June 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • JWT

      The only Son that I acknowledge will be over for dinner next Sunday.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • iubj


      June 13, 2012 at 2:14 am |
  7. Joe


    Communist Russia and Communist China was atheistic. That kind of "progress" lead to the deaths of tens of millions of people in a fairly short period of time; doctrinal atheism has yet to show that large scale it can be trusted with human rights. Since the faithless religion declares there is no punishment or reward for our actions in this life, there are no consequences for our actions.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • JWT

      Well Joe it's a guaranteed fact that christiantiy cannot be trusted with human rights. It is not an issue of religion. It's a matter of knowledge and understandign of the world around us – which regreetfully many people refuse to see.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • gager

      Being good is its own reward. Being bad has bad results in life, not in death.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Secularosity

      Yes, both communist Russia & China were atheistic. Well done. You have identified a correlation.

      However, you have failed to prove causation. There is no proof that the atheism of Stalin or Mao is what led them to kill millions of people.

      One could just as easily say – and with the same amount of evidence – that since both Hitler and Stalin had moustaches, that is the reason they both committed such horrible atrocities.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • westonjbartosh

      Atheism is an ideology,(or lack of one), so thusly it governs ones actions, the(since both Hitler and Stalin had moustaches, that is the reason they both committed such horrible atrocities.) argument is a terrible one, and one that just completely dismisses the vary valid concern of why , if all is meaningless ,should you not just be a psychopath and commit horrible acts if you can get away with them?

      being atheist didn't make them do the terrible things they did,
      but it sure as hell didn't stop them.

      June 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • jerry148

      @JWT how can you say that Christianity cannot be trusted with human rights when Christianity preaches love, charity, tolerance (although it is true that many denominations of Christianity do not practice these ideas), and opposes things like euthanasia and abortion? Liberals and atheists (the two often go hand in hand) both disregard the value of human life, in place of false gods such as higher education, "progress", "enlightenment", "individual freedoms" (aka, individualism), and pleasure. How are atheists/liberals proponents of human rights when, since 1973, they have promoted and executed the "legal" murder of 50 million+ potentially fully-functioning members of society. In the name of "freedom", liberals have terminated 50 million+ lives in only 40 years. That is WAY, WAY more than any number of people killed by religion and World War 1 COMBINED. Abortion has killed a little less than the total number of deaths in World War 2. Every day I lose more and more faith in my fellow countrymen.

      June 12, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Jonathan

      There's no doubt that Stalin, Mao, Hitler (to an extent) were atheist or at least agnostic. But there's a huge difference between killing in the name of atheism and killing people and just so happens you're an atheist/agnostic. All religious genocide throughout history was committed in the name of god. Because these people actually believed it was god's will. You can justify anything and everything if one believes it's truly gods will and his calling. Stalin never killed to spread atheism. Never killed because his atheistic views told him to. He killed because he was a paranoid lunatic. Please realize the difference. I tire of hearing this line that atheism has killed more people than religion.

      June 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • JBullets

      Communist Russia and Communist China were in Asia, therefore no country in Asia can be trusted......

      June 12, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • iubj

      christians Massacred the Indigenous tribes of South/Central etc America.... poor mayans and incas.... declared heretics cuz of their false "godz" good ole christian priests showed them peace and luv eh.....

      June 13, 2012 at 2:16 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      Most Norwegians are atheist. Norway is the #1 happiest country in the world according to the UN's 2011 poll of quality of life. Does that mean their atheism is the sole reason why they are happiest? Correlation is not causation and the China / Russia / Nazi Germany (who had "Gott mitt Uns (God With Us) on their belts) atheism-causes-evil argument is old and poor.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:24 am |
    • 1onewayout

      atheism making people evil IS absurd.

      but atheism being infallible is equally naive .

      Nazi eugenics, and eugenics in general, were a result of Social Darwinism, and an extremism form of atheism.
      pure logic can bring people to terrifying conclusions.

      with the world having more people than ever before, and science on the verge of being able to do amazing(and terrible) things. the western world need a unified moral guide more than ever before.

      humanism and whatever other secular ideas there are easily change to fit whatever the current establishment is for.
      i doubt they will work in the long run.

      i feel that in our struggle to overcome the tyranny of the dogmas of religion, we will over correct. as humanity often does.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Tyler Friedline

      @westonjbartosh Why do all christians think you need religion to have morality? Is something right because god says so, or is it right because its right. Its right because its right. I think someone who is a Agnostic and doesn't know, or is atheist actually has a greater appreciation for life, because he does not believe that after death he will meet all his christian friends again and live forever in perfect land. And talk about atrocities-would all of the terrorist have been ok with their suicide missions if they didn't believe 17 virgins awaited them. Would you give a darn about god if the people who wrote the bible over it's years didn't put in the clauses that say you get to live forever? I think not.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Skep


      "how can you say that Christianity cannot be trusted with human rights when Christianity preaches love, charity, tolerance (although it is true that many denominations of Christianity do not practice these ideas"

      there's your answer right there!

      July 18, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  8. JV

    A positive sign that we're evolving

    June 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • RD

      A sign that prophesy is coming to pass as more and more people turn from their Creator, fall into sin, and make excuses for the selfish lives they live.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • JWT

      I must admit that I have bever turned from the creator since I never ever believed in him in the first place.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  9. Leucadia Bob


    June 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  10. An Atheist's Perspective

    I wonder if it's really a decrease in belief, or if more people are willing to admit it?

    June 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • JWT

      a little from column A, a little from column B...

      June 12, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Huebert

      Either way it's an improvement.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • ScienceSoma

      I think it's less that people are willing to admit it and more that people are exposed to the option of not believing through the internet. It also quickly allows access to questions many people do not naturally arrive at, then it provides community in knowing others have those questions and that it is okay to ask them.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:27 am |
  11. Joshua

    If you never doubt to existence of God then your faith has truly never been tested. If you deny the existence of God your mind has truly never been opened. If you hate the existence of God your heart has never learned to love something other than your own selfish desires.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Huebert

      What if you simply realized that god isn't there?

      June 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • JWT

      What rubbish. Just because you think that there is a god is no reason that any one else has to, whether they believe in no god or their own god.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • jayman419

      I am a deeply moral person. I do more in an average week to help strangers, friends, and family than my family's pastor does in a month. I am not unique. I am not special.

      I do these things because I choose to. No threat of punishment, no promise of reward, moves my hand. If I am wrong about religion, and if these things make me a bad person, then I look forward to the company I shall find with the exclusion of god from my afterlife.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      I wonder how many people could watch a TV show that is faithful to the story of Job and end up not hating God.

      June 12, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • iubj

      The words spoken before non believers cuz massacred. thank you for reminding us of the intolerance of christians.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  12. Lee Oates

    The Naked Ape is maturing. There is hope for the species yet.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  13. Everett Wallace

    i would doubt in their God too but i have no doubt in GOD. The spelling is the difference all caps for the FATHER, big G lower case od for their God satan when in reality satan was only the prince of the air. Just like JESUS is spelled with all caps, their jesus is spelled with lower case or only the j in upper case the casings makes the difference when dealing with religious folk.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Derp? Or derp?

      June 12, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Huebert

      Herp er Derp

      June 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Alittle History

      As for the use of capital or lower cse letters, that is part of sentence structure and proper noun versus object. As for the name "Jesus (or JESUS), that is a name/word made up for the English version (King James version) of the bible. The English language came into use in the thirteenth century and the letter "J" was not invented till the next centuary. I am a "religious folk", so I thought I would pass along a little of our history to you.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Vampsh Black Sheep League of Doom Gardamun Family Circle Master Vampire High Priest

      What the...

      June 12, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Arjun

      Do you even what JESUS was called when he was living? It was Yesua. Now you talk about all caps without even knowing his name. Not only you. But many Christians left the original message of Jesus and fighting for external things.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Runaway moronism!

      June 12, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  14. derp

    Both of my millennials are Atheist.

    Good, kind, hard working, law abiding tax paying atheist millennials.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • guaraya

      And WHO defines what is good, kind, hardworking, law abiding, taxpaying, etc. Do you think that thousands of years since the giving of the Ten Commandments by God can be erased from our psyche in one generation? No, the Creator has instilled those values in your "atheist millenials".

      June 12, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Vampsh Black Sheep League of Doom Gardamun Family Circle Master Vampire High Priest



      June 12, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • JWT

      The only creators I had were my mom and dad.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • derp

      "No, the Creator has instilled those values in your "atheist millenials"

      This is true.

      The creator of my children has instilled those values in them.

      My atheist wife and I had s e x.

      We did not use birth control.

      We created two children and instilled our values into them.

      June 14, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  15. HeavenSent

    Matthew 24:6-8, Mark 13:7-8, and Luke 21:9

    God is in control.


    June 12, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Madtown

      Ah, the poetic word of man.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • JWT

      Your god is in control of you and nothing else.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • sunnygirl


      June 12, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Adam

      I am going to ask you a very serious and honest question. I would like for you to ponder it, and to ask it of yourself and all others you may meet. Keep it close within your mind, and demand satisfactory answers for it. The question is this:


      June 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • poohiggles

      He must be doing a great job, letting children starve, giving people little or no solid reasons to follow him, and letting occurrences like the holocaust and such come into existence.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Christians can't help it you have no eyes to see nor ears to hear His truth. He's already written "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen."

      All you attempts to discredit Jesus Christ is worthless garble only you that spew this babble believe.

      June 12, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      "Many are cold but few are frozen."

      June 12, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  16. Sconce

    Why not just ask the past about how they were even rescued by God yet they still turned their backs on him. It's a small path.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Really-O?

      We need a more contemporary reimagining of our 21st Century strategic concepts.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  17. Sconce

    not news.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  18. Really-O?

    Thank god...errr...uh...Thank goodness!

    June 12, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  19. Moby Schtick

    Now that's good news, unlike the 'gospel.'

    June 12, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  20. Huebert


    June 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • JWT

      it is showing solid progress towards a more just and inclusive society.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
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About this blog

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