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. The Corrector

    I've heard so many confessions about pad parenting.
    Let's bring the Devil down with this one.

    June 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  2. PRISM 1234

    God knew what He did when He stopped the evil world from spreading in the time of Noah! It looks like this time is upon us again! Even the ground is weeping for the evil that's walking upon it!

    June 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • vulpecula

      Harold Camping, is that you?

      June 16, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • sam stone

      Yeah, not like the end times have ever been predicted before....

      June 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Yes Prism 1234, the end times are here just not in the sense you're thinking, more like the end times of religion.

      June 16, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  3. Nate

    Everyone doubts, pastors included. This is a pointless article.

    June 16, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  4. Mark

    As societies develop, becoming wealthier and more educated, they become less religious. This trend is not unique to the USA, it is observed around the world. In one or two hundred years the majority of the developed world will be irreligious.

    June 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  5. trekie70

    Is there anyone out there really surprised by the results of this poll? I'm certainly not. Just consider the ministers in NC, 3 of them, that used their pulpit to spread hatred during their Sunday Mornng service earlier this year. All 3 claim to know God's will and spewed it during their sermons. One advocated "beating the gay" out of your child, while the most recent one proposed penning them up and letting them starve to death. If this is supposed to be what the Christian God wants, I don't care to be associated with him/her/it. Mainline denominations really should vet their ministers a little better if they want to quit be the laughingstock of the intelligent segment of society.

    June 16, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • vulpecula

      I'm not suprised by it. I am suprised by the amount of coverage atheists are getting lately on CNN though. Long overdue.

      June 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  6. tony

    Education and democracy and goodness for it's own sake, are the opposite of the religious life.

    June 16, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • vulpecula

      wouldn't say that was intirely true. there are religions that embrace those very ideas. Buddhism is one that comes to mind first, but some would say Buddhist isn't a religion because Budda is a revered mortal man, not a god. I tend to see religion as the yoke, blinders, and reins that hold those ideas back.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • JW

      Buddhism is a philosophy, as I understand it, not a religion. Religion values ignorance and unquestioned authority, not to mention fear of punishment.

      June 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • vulpecula

      But when world religion comes up, Buddhism is always there. it may not have a god, but it is full of ritual and a belief in an afterlife and even multiple lives and nirvana. Only in it's most stripped down form is it just a philosophy. A religion doesn't have to have a god or gods, only supernatural beliefs.

      June 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • vulpecula

      I understand your meaning JW. You can be an atheist and a Buddhist too, just like you can be a Christian and Buddhist at the same time. Personally I believe there is very much that people could learn from Buddhist. There are theologians, archeaologists and historians that agree that Jesus was influenced by Buddhist.

      June 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  7. JW

    True enough, vulpecula. Nothing supernatural to do with it, but I'm sure many who get that treatment in the future will say "Thank God!" rather than thank the actual scientists and doctors.

    Religion poisons everything.

    June 16, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • vulpecula

      yes, they will, just like they do now. Whats even crazier though are the ones that want to say god was with them when that plane they were in crashed into a building killing almost everyone. Oh yea, god was really on the plain to save just you, but not all those others. riiiight.

      blind faith = suspension of reasoning

      June 16, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  8. JW

    I'm reading people on this thread saying "Medical proof! There is nothing my god cannot do!"

    Oh yeah? Let's see him grow back a severed limb on a Christian Iraq War Vet who gave up his body for his country.

    Guess what? Ain't gonna happen. There are no miracles. Your faith healing is crap.

    June 16, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • vulpecula

      Never say never. Yes, faith haling has been discredited. But the ability to regrow limbs isn't that far off thanks to modern science. So when it real happens with the first human, a supernatural being will have had nothing to do with it.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Vulpecula – You seem to assume that when a limb is regenerated by medical science that the event will occur is some sort of vacuum. Do you not give credit to the timeline of human history, largely directed by people of faith, which would culminate in this "miracle"? The Socratic method, the scientific method, the university system, modern medicine, the doctrine of war that lead to the veteran's loss to begin with. Our entire history is shaped by faith, even to the extent of those who have resisted it. When any advancement comes, certainly man owes something to the creator who first shaped his ear and eye.

      June 18, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  9. JW

    I love how she accuses this guy of trying to "shape" the beliefs of young people and "indoctrinate" them. Ummmm, that's EXACTLY what religions do! Pot, meet kettle.

    June 16, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • tony

      All babies are atheists when born. Which make atheism a part of innocence.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  10. beall

    I think that what scares most believers is that they think a non believer cannot live as honorable a life as those who believe.In fact as a non believer I respect the vast wisdom of the rules created to ensure the human race prospers and lives in peace.The statement "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is simply the only guidance that we need and is the basis of almost all religions whether devinely inspired or not-However this simple rule which all originators of the worlds' religions was founded upon would not dilineate beliefs and therefore would not create a power structure and control that was not intended by the originators. A simple study of religion will show this universal concept to be true.As the concept of a "Religion" progresses through time I think you will see an increasing intolerance of those who do not adhere as the religion becomes more and more distorted through attempts to increase control(money,power).And what we are left with now is a sad perversion of what was originally intended.A Government that is based on Atheism is not a true Atheistic concept as it seeks to replace "The fear of the Lord" with the fear of the government(China-Nazi Germany) and is in fact not an Atheist concept.I think true Atheism is a conscience based mode of behavior that governs actions based on what one expects of ones self.I suppose there are good and bad Atheists as there are good and bad in all.But I do believe there is more merit in a life well lived for its' own sake than for fear of retribution or exclusion from the theory of Paradise.

    June 16, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • vulpecula

      Atheism is simply the lack in the belief in anything supernatural. Please don't read anything more into it. What an atheists views are beyond that are as diverse as the numbers of them. We cover a large spectrum. Who I am is defined by my understanding of science, arts, philosophy, and so many other things. I'm am no more defined by atheism than I am by my lack in the belief of unicorns.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • huda

      simply but surely there are good and bad atheists and religions have wisdom(i see religion as a culture).

      June 16, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • vulpecula

      there are good and bad in religions too. And what "wisdom" there is in religions doesn't compare to the wisdom in science and philosophy. And not only do religions site unvarifiable sources, they are locked in to their ideas and inflexable to new varifiable evidence that might contradict them. The whole system of religion is set up to eventually fail somewhere in it's future. In 1000 years, people will be looking back at the religions of our time as being as silly as how we see now dead religions that are view as mythology. At least th people that beleived the sun was a flaming chariot driven across the sky had something they could see even if they couldn't understandit. The religions of today don't even have that. When I have conclusive and varifiable evidence there is any sort of god or gods, then I'll ask the question of whether they are worth worshiping or not.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • trekie70

      Your first sentence is right on, beall. Most devout believers have a very fragile faith, demonstrated by how bent out of shape they get when someone points out a flaw.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  11. vulpecula

    Christians are so spoiled here in America. They act like it's been there party and that somehow we atheist are intruding on it. Religious freedom has been a hallmark of this nation from it's very beginning. Our founding fathers were mostly Diests or Unitarians, and free thinkers of the American Enlightenment and made it very clear.
    I watched this video and I was rather suprised because it seemed to me the interveiwer's bias was showing, to the point of being rude. So many religious people automatically think atheists have no morals because thats what there churches teach them. They take no time to actually do alittle research to find statistics about atheist. And her comment about atheists possible indoctrinating was so hypocritical in light of the fact that christians hold a complete menopoly in a large number of high schools and that religions all start indoctrinating childeren from the moment they are born.

    June 16, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  12. atheist Intelligent Design

    Atheist Intelligent Design: Life on Earth was designed scientifically. No God and no evolution. See rael.org

    June 16, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • vulpecula

      @Atheist Intelligent Design
      That you would try to deliberately misrepresent this website by tacking atheist to it on this post totally discredits you. Atheists don't believe in this sort of bunk. Texts from Aliens. Yea, I thought it would be a good laugh before I went to it our of boredom. Your nothing less than a Liar.

      June 16, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  13. Jack

    Hello everyone. You are graciously invited to visit my web site... thestarofkaduri.com

    June 16, 2012 at 12:34 am |
  14. hello

    this is almost getting funny....? CNN is becoming a puppet for someone or someones who hates God and religions....and maybe is gay.....? CAN YOU NOT FIND ONE STORY THAT IS POSITIVE FOR THE FAITH COMMUNITY??? Most of the people on your Hero show are christians.....doesn't that tell you something???? We really have given up – you are a voice for a cause now.....and it is a democratic, anti God, anti faith voice and it is very biased

    June 16, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • vulpecula

      Atheist don't hate religion. they just don't beleive in the supernatural without verifiable evidence. Just because you get your feeling hurt by that doesn't mean we hate you. Did you think your parents hated yu when you found out Santa was a hoax? Did you ever get over it?

      June 16, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  15. Chuck

    The fact that 80% of people have never doubted the existence of god is pretty depressing. Do they know this is the 21st century?

    June 15, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  16. careabouttheworld

    God is dead.

    June 15, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Rebel4Christ

      How could you be so blind!!! My faith has grown so much this past week, I saw a kid with complete blindness since he was four be completely healed just because I prayed for him, I saw somebody's disfigured foot reshape it'self because we prayed for it. I saw Strong Atheists get down on their knees and start worshiping God!!!! So once again I say. HOW COULD YOU BE SO BLIND!!!!!!!

      June 15, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      RebelForJewishZombieMyth, I truly hope your post was intended to be humouress if not sarcastic but in case you are serious, pleas provide independent evidence for your amazing medical results du to prayer.

      June 15, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      And god is not dead. "He" never existed, so cannot be dead.

      June 15, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Rebel4Christ

      Medical proof!!!! REALLY!!! I saw it happen bro, There is nothing my God cannot DO!!!! (Matthew 16:4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away.)

      June 15, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      If I can't have proof, can I have some of what you're smokin"?

      June 16, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Rebel4Christ

      Why is faith so foolish to you? Everybody has to rely on some sort of faith. For example you have to rely that the internet won't just randomly shut down and go away, You have to have faith to believe that you are still going to be alive tomorrow, So why is faith so foolish to you?

      June 16, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Your examples are nonsense! I believe there is a high probability that the Internet will be available and I will be alive tomorrow because of verifiable measurable experiences and physical conditions that support this belief. Yes, there is some probability that either or both may not happen, but even that is largely determined by quantifiable physical factors. The same cannot be said for religion, gods and the jesus myth – they are all unproven stories without a shred of evidence.

      June 16, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • JWT

      You make the false assumtion that he ever lived.

      June 16, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • vulpecula

      If Rebel4Christ has seen this many miracles in a week, I dare say that he has probable been watching evangelical videos and has no access to any varifiable evidence. Just his blind faith.

      June 16, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  17. ...

    test test

    June 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • ...


      June 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • rudyardK

      OK, you have two testes.

      June 15, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  18. yamnnjr

    You don't have to believe in God to be a good person, you have to serve God to be a good person. Believing in God? Satan believes in God. You need to depend upon God if you are ever to cast off the shackles that enslave you to your sins, the sins that hurt others that you can't seem to shake no matter how hard you try.

    As for questioning God, I've never been to a church that discouraged questions about God. Now, I was too shy to ask the questions because of my own misconceptions about what they might think of the question. But that was me, not them. LOL, I love how Atheists pretend they are objective thinkers, how they actually convince themselves of this despite the fact that they reject any kind of objectivity about arguments that either esteems Christians and the church or implies their obvious lack of objectivity.

    June 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Manish

      Should I just remind you that neither God nor the Devil exist?
      Ever heard of Science?

      June 15, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • artemis3120

      You're talking about objectivity, but most arguments I've heard from theists pre-suppose the existence of a god. In the end, all evidence and arguments lead to the conclusion that the existence of a god cannot be proven. I cannot definitely say there is no god, but a leap of faith must be taken to believe one exists.

      I have spent the greater part of my life studying, searching, and praying in sincerity, but in the end I had to come to terms with the fact that there is no solid evidence. A lot of what you say seems very interesting. Would you like to continue talking further?

      June 15, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Repeat... Most atheists come from religious backgrounds. Why is that so hard to understand. Many of us grew up believing exactly what you believe.

      An objective question you might ask is, "Why do I believe in a deity for which there is no evidence?" If your answer is faith, that is not objective thinking. Faith is pretending to know something you don't know. That IS by it's very nature subjective reasoning.

      If that question is too uneasy for your digestion, try this one, "What evidence do you have that the god of the bible created everything as opposed to a magical bunny?" This is an objective thought exercise and not intended to insult.

      If your conjecture is that christians have open and honest objective reasoning about these kinds of questions, I would argue that having been raised in a christian home of 18 years in church and 13 yrs in a xtian school that I have never seen it to be true. Nor have I engaged 1 xtian on these blogs or since by childhood that has lived up to the picture that you have so colorfully painted.

      Please, prove me to be wrong. I long desperately to meet a xtian that uses objective reasoning.

      June 15, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Rebel4Christ

      Just realized this week that atheism is the stupidest RELIGION ON EARTH!!!! I saw people who had blindness healed completely because of prayer! I saw a kid with a disfigured foot be completely healed!!! I saw another person who had arthritis (Im sorry if i spelled thatwrong) who has had it since he was a baby be healed completely!!! Now you tell me that Gods A FAKE!!!!

      June 15, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Get Real

      "I saw people who had blindness healed completely because of prayer! I saw a kid with a disfigured foot be completely healed!!! I saw another person who had arthritis (Im sorry if i spelled thatwrong) who has had it since he was a baby be healed completely!!!"

      What on Earth are you doing here, then. You should be off writing up those 'miracles' for peer review and verification. You will be famous!!!... and James Randi is even offering big bucks (like a million dollars) for it too. Lucky, luuuuucky you!!!

      Sorry, I gotta run and finish my paper on Criss Angel walking on water...

      June 16, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Rebel4Christ

      The Bible says don't test the Lord thy God, and yes that would be testing him.

      June 16, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Get Real


      On the other hand, John (1:4) said our duty is to "test the spirits," and Paul said: "Test everything." (1 Thess. 5:21).

      More contradictions from your book.

      And a cop out from you.

      What to do? What to do?

      June 16, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • Brad

      Rebel4Christ you don't have to test your God just tell us where you saw such things and where the rest of us can see these miracles.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Rebel4Christ

      I saw these miracles at a church camp I went too and I know what happened isn't fake because I prayed for the kid who was blind, I actually saw it happen!!

      June 16, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If that were the case, doofus, it would have been the biggest news story of the day. I saw the Amazing Kreskin cut a lady in half.

      June 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Brad

      What camp? Who did the healing?

      June 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Rebel4Christ, Too bad no one was there to catch it on video tape. I would think in a room full of people that believe in faith healing there were be a camera and someone there to prove everything was real. But maybe I'm thinking of science. Maybe god is camera shy.

      June 17, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  19. Brandon Anderson

    This generation is the end. They are too spoiled, stupid and everything else in the book. At least the youth of the '60s were real and passionate. This generation is a joke. The idiot kid atheist on this program is a good example.

    June 15, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Manisj

      Oh please, no one believes in those fairy tales anymore....
      Ever heard of Science?

      June 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • yamnnjr

      You can't judge a person based on how deceived they are. That's like judging a 5 year old who's convinced he can help Santa Claus one day.

      You can't get all angry and bitter about someone who intentionally ignores the truths that speak of Christ and the existence of God because it's not that he realizes he's ignoring it, he is simply deceived by Satan, with blinders. The man sees something that is blatant and obvious, well Satan has learned him well, and knows just what to put into his mind, just how to make him feel to turn him away from that blatant truth and explain it away in some form or fashion, and how to even convince him that he's intelligent because he ignores it.

      You see the proof of this in their arguments. A lot of Atheist arguments are logical and sensible, but when you get down the real meat of it, the base of where the debate will lead, their faith is even weaker than the theists faith, and they refuse to accept it. It's not their fault, it's that Satan has convinced them of their own superiority and understanding to a point where they cannot be convinced, no matter what. It has gotten to the point of being a religion that even contradictory arguments are accepted and the blatant contradiction is ignored.

      You can see this most obvious when you here them talk about the attrocties of what people have done throughout history in the name of God. They're mostly thinking about the medieval Catholic church and the few things that the corrupt did in the new world.

      However, in all their ranting and raving about things that were done mostly by obviously corrupt people who were more interested in their own ambitions than they ever were about their faith, which they probably didn't even actually believe in, by the way they acted, the Atheist completely side-steps what Atheists have done in the name of Atheism that dwarfs by comparison all the atrocities done in the name all god's combined throughout human history. And they did their atrocious deeds in only a matter of several decades.

      When Dawkins, the great Atheistic philosopher-prophet, considered to be amongst the most objective, educated, and articulate of the Atheists was asked about this, he merely stated that which he cannot prove that which we could prove about most if not all atrocities done in the name of Christ. Dawkins said that it was because of the type of people that the Atheist leaders were, not because they were Atheists, that they did the atrocities they did.

      Dawkins can't prove that because the bulk of all the atrocities they did was specifically for the sake of enforcing Atheism. However, it can easily, easily be proven that the medieval Catholic church, when certain Bishops and Cardinals did certain or called for certain atrocities, they were doing so for the sake of their own ambition and greed. Most of them, if not all of them even side-stepped the principles of their own faith for the sake of accomplishing their goals. When a person violates their own professed faith for their own ambitions, it's a pretty decent bet that they only follow the faith for appearances sake and not in actuality. In other words, they're probably more akin to Atheists regarding their faith in God than to actual theists. Hmmm . . .

      June 15, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • rudyardK

      What a Christian thing to say.

      June 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  20. Jack

    Good afternoon everyone, you all are more than welcome to visit ... thestarofkaduri.com

    June 15, 2012 at 5:14 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.