Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, has studied the behavior of young people in America for more than two decades. The subtitle of his 2017 book, iGengives you an idea of his thesis: “why today‘Super-connected kids grow up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy — and completely unprepared for adulthood — and what that means for the rest of us.
Deep in the survey data of 11 million people born in the mid-1990s, Twenge identifies a seismic trend, which‘It’s been going on for decades: This generation is also the least religious in US history. But before assuming that impiety is to blame for their misfortune, says Twenge, consider instead Iindividualism — a focus on the self — which can lead young people away from the rules of societyincluding organized religion.
A young man said to Twenge that religion, at least for people of his age, looks like “that‘it is something of the past. It looks like something that doesn’t exist‘t modern. Another said: “I knew from church that I could‘I didn’t believe in both science and God, so that was it. I did‘no longer believe in God.” Only 28% of high school graduates attended religious services in 2015, compared to 40% in 1976. A growing number also told Twenge that religion was “not important at all” in their lives.
It is n‘not just young people. Regardless of race and ethnicity, socio-economic background and geography, fewer of us say we believe in God: 81%, according to a recent Gallup poll, up from 96% eight decades ago. If current trends continue, Twenge concluded in 2015, the America of the future will be “without church, without marriage and without prejudice.” The latter may be difficult to envisage, given that anti-trans bills spent last year in Arizona and Utah, while California and Oregon saw a increase in hate crimes against Asians and Pacific Islanders since the start of the pandemic. But imagine, if you can, a nation without prejudice where this kind of thing would be unheard of; where are the tribal nations accepted as sovereign; where there is full access to reproductive health in Arizona and Nevada and Wyoming.
It signals an extraordinary new path for this country and for the West in particular, where Christianity has long been the dominant creed encouraging settler colonialism.‘s thrust westward, playing a key role in the subjugation of indigenous peoples and the occupation of their lands. Christian nationalism has been a common battle cry, used to promote political campaigns and proselytize among young people, from the pledge of allegiance to schoolbooks and beyond. At its root is the belief that God intended the United States of America to be great. Like all founding myths, however, Christian nationalism is an illusion: it‘its been shoved down our throats as a kind of civic faith to create a unifying American identity.
The United States and Christianity are not inextricable, despite those who insist that they are. This‘It should be noted that Christianity does not‘actually appear in one of three “founder” documents – the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation or the Constitution of the United States. Thomas Jefferson‘document from 1776 invoke a supreme being it is non-sectarian. And it’s worth remembering this his powerful statement that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”, did not include black people or women, and that it rejected indigenous peoples as “ruthless indian savages.” Yet in 1788 the US became the first nation in the world to abolish a religious test for exercising a public function. Jth first amendment to the Constitution, added by Congress within three years, to forbided government from dictating a state religion or favoring one religion over another, thereby establishing the separation of church and state. Many Bible-quoting conservative Christians in office today would gladly erase these principles if they could. Today, 89% of members of the House of Representatives identify as Christians, even as we‘I see a growing secularism among all Americans, especially among young people.
As “something from the past,” to quote the young man Twenge interviewed for his book, Christian fundamentalism is making an appearance again. This‘It’s a response to many things, including declining church membership. For many of us, belief is simply incompatible with a scientific view of the world. But we can‘t forget how the decline in religiosity has been hijacked by the Republican Party for political purposes: conservative Christians, self-proclaimed “moral majority,” are today, in fact, a minority. And not just in the faith department: As the 2010 US Census Confirmedmultiracial babies — especially Latinos — now outnumber white babies. Many of the largest Latin American populations reside in the Southwest, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The trend has been going on for decades, fueled by interracial marriage, immigration and births in the United States. And this should continue: By 2050, the United States stop being a majority white country.
With its influence diminished, a threatened white Christian minority turns to alarmism: We see its influence among increasingly emboldened white nationalists and in the past year‘s United States Capitol Uprising. We see its power over the current Supreme Court, with its reversal of the 1973 decision Roe vs. Wade decision and refusal to consider comprehensive gun reform.
But the tide is turning. Our future is not only secular, but increasingly atheistic. Those of us in the West who care about preserving democracy, human rights, and the environment must challenge a vengeful white Christian leadership. We can start by challenging the fundamental myth that America is one with God. Perhaps we should follow the example of the younger generations by joining the ranks of people with no religious affiliation and “none.” We may not all be created equal under the eyes of the state — but we have every right to be, with or without God.
Ruxandra Guidi was previously editor-in-chief for High Country News. She writes from Tucson, Arizona. Follow @ruxguidi
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