85% of Americans born between 1928 and 1945 are Christian. 11% are unaffiliated.
78% of Americans born between 1946 and 1964 are Christian. 17% are unaffiliated.
70% of Americans born between 1965 and 1980 are Christian 23% are unaffiliated.
57% of Americans born between 1981 and 1996 are Christian. 34% are unaffiliated.
Notice that with each subsequent generation, Christianity rate declines faster than the generation before, and unaffiliated rates increase.
Why is this? What are the underlying social mechanisms driving this change? Is it merely a matter of people finding religion more reasonable as they get older? Is the problem narcissistic youth rejecting their one-and-only chance at salvation for the sake of appearances?
Literal biblical interpretation implies, or explicitly states the earth is less than 7000 years old, human life originated with 2 individuals, and humans lived a fair amount of time with dinosaurs. Aside from the bible’s scientific errors, it also tells us we are born sick, commanded to be well, and that we need to rely on constant reverence to god as the remedy for our sickness.
Not a single writer of the bible knew where the sun went at night, nor that microscopic germs were responsible for most of their deaths. They would have never imagined people would someday build flying machines and movable boxes to travel thousands of miles. It’s clear there is not a single word in the bible that exceeded the worldview of any person of the time – there is no profound insight that meets or exceeds our current insight. And you know what? Kids understand that.
The worldview of every single biblical-age person was narrower than any literate westerner alive today, which is why westerners no longer celebrate contemporary literature which could honestly cast positive light on a protagonist who summons bears to kill children, commands the murder of tens of thousands of people, and who creates scenarios where raping virgins is anything less than an atrocity.
I remember, as a kid, having questions but not being able to find the answer. Things like what was the name of the actor in that one movie…or what was that one famous book everyone talks about? In reality, people encounter this all the time, where we try to remember something not quite committed to memory, and we come up short. Before the Internet, these questions were dead ends – they usually never got answered, and if they did, it was long after we’d had any remaining interest to actually answer them.
Those days are gone. Those lingering questions are not even part of people’s realities for the most part, because questions don’t need to go unanswered very long. Topics that required a trip to the library, or access to very smart individuals are now easily accessible. For instance, if people want to review specifics about the general theory of relativity, they can view Leonard Susskind’s Stanford course where he covers the history of human understanding of gravity, as well as Einstein’s opus – it’s something like 20 hours of lecture. People can download a Lawrence Krauss or Stephen Hawking electronic book, and within a few seconds, dive into cosmology.
Modern kids’ access to information is leaps and bounds ahead of what anyone would have imagined even 50 years ago. In a world where there is utility in understanding F=mA and E=mc^2, it’s pretty obvious what’s wrong with a holy book that depicts talking snakes, dragons, and people living inside a fish’s stomach. This is not rocket science, and I know it’s not rocket science because I googled it.
This immediate access to profoundly deep levels of knowledge is the enemy of religions who encourage, then feast on their congregants’ ignorance. More than that though, this access to information has the capacity to reveal illogical propositions, such as the notion that humans lived with dinosaurs. The horror depicted throughout the bible is now on display for the world to see, and even if one risks cherry-picking by limiting their focus to only the most disgusting immorality depicted and celebrated in the bible, they are still likely to come to the most reasonable conclusion about it: that it’s outdated trash which has been used to oppress, subjugate, and impoverish humans for millenia.
The information age has eliminated the mysteries pervasive for so many generations. So, when biblical literalists come spouting their nonsense, such as the earth is only 6000 years old, or humans lived with dinosaurs, or human life began with Adam and Eve, kids can immediately debunk those claims with their smart devices.
Of course, this is not the end-all-be-all solution; kids who are taught that skepticism is unhealthy or sinful learn to fear honest inquiry. The information age does not solve this problem alone; we also need a dogged insistence on secular values in our society.