We can all speculate about why younger generations are alienated from organized religion, and certainly there are many reasons. But knowing the current political trends in this country, we might suggest that one factor of great importance is how “organized religion” in this country is largely driven by the shrill and intolerant evangelicals (including the extreme Catholics like Rick Santorum), and their hate-filled message against gays, women, and sometimes minorities.
But Hemant Mehta argues that the regressive social policies of fundamentalists isn’t the only factor. He points to the fact that younger generations are more likely to learn from the internet, and less likely to obey everything their parents tell them, especially when they have questions that organized religion has no good answers for. Certainly, the virtual community of web-enabled young people can explore and learn about topics like atheism and evolution in a way that would have been impossible in many small religious American towns just a generation ago. Even if the social pressure of the conservative community censors or hushes up these topics in school and at the library, the internet opens a window that cannot be shut by local authorities—and younger people are more likely to find their own answers this way than ever before.
For those of us who value science and science education in this country, this is good news. As I’ve argued in several previous posts, the single biggest factor that causes us to fall behind nearly all the other westernized industrial nations (including Japan, South Korea, China, and Singapore, along with most of Europe) is religion. When you break down the polling, it’s always questions about evolution, the age of the earth, cosmology, and human evolution that nearly always cause Americans to flunk science literacy tests compared to other nations. These are all questions that reflect the creationist-evangelical influence on our culture. Thank gods, it is apparently declining.
In contrast to this discussion,
Child protections have become established in most countries, and conversations about child-friendly religion are gaining ground. Even so, many children are subject to patriarchal groups that take parenting priorities from the Iron Age. Evangelical Christians, fearing that their religion is losing ground, have ramped up recruiting activities targeting high school and college students but also young children. Their tool bag includes afternoon club programs and enticing camps. Some churches, like that of TV’s Duggar family, promote a high birth rate, adding young sheep to the fold the old fashioned way. Many churches encourage members — even those who already have numerous children — to adopt.