New research suggests the percentage of Americans who prayed or believed in God reached an all-time low in 2014.
An intercollegiate research team led by San Diego State University psychology professor Dr. Jean M. Twenge analyzed data from 58,893 respondents to the General Social Survey. This survey is a a nationally representative survey of U.S. adults administered between 1972 and 2014.
Drs. Ryne Sherman from Florida Atlantic University and Julie J. Exline from Case Western Reserve University, and Case Western graduate student Joshua B. Grubbs, also participated in the research.
The investigators discovered five times as many Americans in 2014 reported that they never prayed as did Americans in the early 1980s, and nearly twice as many said they did not believe in God.
Researchers discovered Americans in recent years were less likely to engage in a wide variety of religious practices. For instance, less Americans attended religious services, characterized themselves as a religious person, or believed that the Bible is divinely inspired.
The biggest declines in religious behavior was found among 18- to 29-year-old respondents. The results appear in the journal Sage Open.
“Most previous studies concluded that fewer Americans were publicly affiliating with a religion, but that Americans were just as religious in private ways. That’s no longer the case, especially in the last few years,” said Twenge, who is also the author of the book, “Generation Me.”
“The large declines in religious practice among young adults are also further evidence that Millennials are the least religious generation in memory, and possibly in American history.”
This decline in religious practice has not been accompanied by a rise in spirituality, which, according to Twenge, suggests that, rather than spirituality replacing religion, Americans are becoming more secular.
The one exception to the decline in religious beliefs was a slight increase in belief in the afterlife.
“It was interesting that fewer people participated in religion or prayed but more believed in an afterlife,” Twenge said.
“It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality — thinking you can get something for nothing.”
Source: San Diego State University