The U.S. Is Now At Its Least Spiritual

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Millennials have a reputation for being nonreligious, and now it seems we've hit an all-time low. According to new research, 2014 marked the least spiritual year in the U.S. since the '70s.

The researchers for the study, which was published online this week in the journal Sage Open, looked at data for 58,893 people. All of the data came from the nationally representative General Social Survey conducted between 1972 and 2014. Participants were asked about their religious affiliation, how strongly they felt connected with that religion, how often they actually went to services, how frequently they prayed, whether they identified as "spiritual," and if they believed in an afterlife.

Results showed that we've been on a steady spiritual decline since 1972, with a major drop beginning in the early '00s and continuing on through 2014. And that drop was especially evident among participants between the ages of 18 and 29. At this point, almost a third of millennials aren't religiously affiliated, and they're skeptical in other ways, too. They're not attending services, praying, or taking the Bible literally, and they're doubting the existence of God.

"By 2014, American adults were less likely to pray, believe in God, identify as religious, attend religious services, or believe the Bible was the word of God than they were in previous decades," the study authors write. "Thus, the decline in religious affiliation found in previous research has now extended to religious service attendance and, by 2008 and afterward, to personal religious belief and practice."

One notable exception was that our belief in an afterlife did not show the same decline, perhaps a sign of a "growing entitlement mentality — thinking you can get something for nothing," said lead author Jean M. Twenge, PhD, in a press release.

However, we know that doesn't mean that millennials aren't spiritual at all. Instead, it seems we have a slightly different, complex, and evolving relationship with faith. But if yours is evolving towards nonexistence, just know that you're definitely not alone.
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