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Culture Beat / Mar. 22, 2016

Belief in God in Dwindling, but What About the Afterlife?

New research reveals a strange paradox

New research by San Diego State University (SDSU) contains two interesting, albeit contradictory, findings. The first isn’t all that surprising — Millennials are more agnostic than previous generations. “Five times as many Americans in 2014 reported that they never prayed as did Americans in the early 1980s, and nearly twice as many said they did not believe in God,” according to a summary posted on the SDSU website. Lead research Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at SDSU, says, “Most previous studies concluded that fewer Americans were publicly affiliating with a religion, but that Americans were just as religious in private ways. That’s no longer the case, especially in the last few years. The large declines in religious practice among young adults are also further evidence that Millennials are the least religious generation in memory, and possibly in American history.”

But there’s a paradox: Even though the number of agnostics is on the increase, so is the number of people who believe in life after death. The DSDU report adds, “The one exception to the decline in religious beliefs was a slight increase in belief in the afterlife.” There are innumerable ways we could dissect these results, but Twenge sums it up best: “It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality — thinking you can get something for nothing.” On the one hand we have “Evangelical” voters distorting what it means to be a Christian, and on the other we have agnostics increasingly open to the idea of an afterlife. These are strange days indeed.

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