What Young Adults in 100 Countries Think of Religion

Source: Christianity Today

Pew suggests one explanation for these handful of countries where young adults are not only as faithful as their elders, but more so: violent conflict.

“The few countries where young adults are more religious than their elders all have something in common: a recent history of violent conflicts leading to civilian deaths,” the report noted. “… it may be that conditions in these places were at least somewhat more stable when older adults were coming of age, and the existential insecurity experienced by younger adults explains why they are more religious.”

Beliefs and behaviors

Countries with Christian majorities and those with Muslim majorities tend toward different kinds of religious gaps between young and old.

In predominantly Christian countries, it’s whether they consider religion a priority; the greatest generational discrepancies emerge over the question of religion’s importance in their lives. In predominantly Muslim countries, it’s a question of mosque attendance. Even in countries where religiosity remains steady across age groups, young people still tend to be less likely to pray daily.

Christian-majority countries face the biggest decrease in religiosity among youths, with about half reporting that religion is less important to younger Christian adults. Muslim-majority countries face a similar dilemma, though not as severe, with about a quarter showing a similar drop in religious commitment among young people.

Especially in the West, these trends may point to a more secular generation of young people, but some analysts hold that people tend to become more religious as they get older.

Religion and development

As noted, the countries with the greatest percentage of people who say religion is “very important” in their lives—mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Central America—are also among the fastest-growing countries in the world.

The Pew report points out a negative correlation between religious commitment and various development factors, such as levels of education, gross domestic product (GDP), and income equality.

That is, countries with widespread education and high wages are typically less religious by traditional measures. Less developed countries—with relatively poorer education and less wealthy populations—generally have more religious populations.

There is, however, one serious outlier in this trend: the United States.

“Of 102 countries, the US is the only one with both above-average GDP per capita and above-average frequency of daily prayer,” stated the Pew researchers. Other measures of religious commitment are considerably higher in the United States than in other developed nations.


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