A recent study has discovered an interesting trend in regards to Americans and religion:
As recently as 1990, all but 7% of Americans claimed a religious affiliation, a figure that had held constant for decades. Today, 17% of Americans say they have no religion, and these new “nones” are very heavily concentrated among Americans who have come of age since 1990. Between 25% and 30% of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation — roughly four times higher than in any previous generation.
The cause of this is not a rise in skepticism, at least not skepticism of divine beings. Most of these people are not calling themselves atheists; they are still retaining some belief in gods and theology. The driving force, according to this study, is politics.
Specifically, the wedge between young Americans and organized religion is homosexuality. No longer does a majority of twentysomethings feel homosexual relationship “always” or “almost always,” plummeting from about 75% in 1990 to about 40% in 2008.
The primary organized religions, both in America and worldwide, are against homosexuality. For older generations, this was a relatively easy thing to support for the majority of people. Most did not know someone who presented themselves as anything but straight. Sexual diversity only existed in far-off, exotic places like San Francisco. Hating people you don’t know and probably will never see is always easier than meeting people face to face (See: Red Scare and Leningrad).
The same is not true for the current generation of twentysomethings. Everyone knows someone who’s out of the closet. Most people know not one but a dozen. Or even dozens. More so, people are much more aware that sexual orientation is not binary. One need not be completely hetero or homosexual; the world is full of shades of gray in between. This means people have far more expose to non-heteronormative lifestyles than ever before.
These are not strangers on the street either. The youth of American are finding that ever-demonized “others” are actually their friends and family. People they grew up with, that they knew since childhood. Is it any surprise that they choose their friends and family over large, uncaring, religious organizations?