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Gen Z Is the Least Religious Generation. Here’s Why That Could Be a Good Thing.

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Members of Generation Z are losing their religion, for better and for worse. My 17-year-old daughter, Sheila, does not believe in God. She attended church twice when we were trying to decide whether to raise her with religion (we decided against it). She’s been at synagogue a few times, attending friends’ bat mitzvahs, but those friends don’t believe in God either. Her circle of close friends is diverse in many ways: white, black, Latina, Jewish, Indian; three identify as bi or gay. They are less diverse when it comes to religion: Except for one girl, who’s an Evangelical Christian, religion is not important to these kids.

Sheila and her friends are typical of a growing trend in her generation. I say this not only as a parent. I teach at a Catholic university where increasing numbers of my students lack even basic knowledge of the tradition they were supposedly raised in. And I’m a sociologist of religion who has spent 15 years studying those who leave it.

Generation Z is the least religious generation. About one third have no religion—about the same proportion as among Millennials—compared with 23 percent, 17 percent, and 11 percent among, respectively, Generation X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation, according to Pew research. But Gen Z’s ties to religion seem even weaker than Millennials’: They are more likely to identify as atheist or agnostic (21 percent vs. 15 percent), and most think church attendance is unimportant, according to research by the Barna Group. (Barna is a firm that provides data to Christian organizations who are evidently concerned about these trends.)

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