The Case of the Religious Unaffiliated: a Socio-Cultural Analysis of the Millennial Generation

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Scholarship of Faith Integration


In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the secularization theory was birthed – namely, the belief that with the onset of modernization and urbanization, religion would cease to shape cultural values and influence societal norms, confining religion to the private sphere of life. The premise of this theory built its foundation on the Enlightenment period, an era during which it was assumed that human reason could establish a perfect society. During the “age of reason,” advances in science, technology, and education promised to dispel the stench of superstition often associated with religion. However, a century later, sociologists realized that religion had not yet vanished from the global spectrum. In fact, the creation of new religious movements in the West, the proliferation of Pentecostal churches in the Global South, and a growing interest in the supernatural everywhere have disseminated religious beliefs around the world. This article analyzes critical aspects of the millennial generation as to understand how to better reach them. The first section provides a brief and general overview of the current religious landscape of the United States, describing the general characteristics of the religious unaffiliated in order to underscore possible reasons for their lack of religious affiliation. The second explores specific characteristics of the Millennial generation, providing further clarification as to their participation (or lack thereof) in organized religion. The final section examines the most distinguishing cultural values of Millennials, taking into consideration the hierarchy of needs proposed by American Psychologist Abraham Maslow.


This article was originally written as a paper, "THE CASE OF THE RELIGIOUS UNAFFILIATED:
A SOCIO-CULTURAL ANALYSIS OF THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION" when the author was a Ph.D. student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. IT was later published in Didache: Faithful Teaching (Volume 15, number 2).

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.