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Four years ago, the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project released the bombshell finding that millennials (born in 1980 and after) were the least religiously engaged generation in nearly 100 years.
The report said most millennials affirmed God's existence, life after death, and many other traditional beliefs. But young adults were significantly more disconnected from churches and other religious institutions than previous generations. About 1 in 4 millennials have no religious affiliation. By comparison, only 5 percent of the so-called "greatest generation," born before 1928, is unaffiliated. That 21-point gap is historic, experts say.
In her 2013 book, 'Til Faith Do Us Part, Naomi Schaefer Riley, a weekly columnist for the New York Post, explored how the rise of interfaith marriage benefits society, even while complicating the daily lives of such couples. Riley's latest book, Got Religion? How Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues Can Bring Young People Back (Templeton Press), reports on why young adult Muslims, Mormons, Jews, Catholics, black Protestants, and evangelicals are defecting from their faith traditions. Her hope is that faith leaders will realize their common problem and learn from each other in order to solve it. Riley spoke recently with Timothy C. Morgan, CT senior editor of global journalism.
Your book paints a complex picture of the spirituality of young adults. What perspective do faith leaders need to adopt to address millennials' spiritual needs?
Religious institutions add an enormous amount to our moral and civic life, but they are weakened by the trends: the lack of religious affiliation by millennials as well as their own financial struggles. But I found rays of hope. This isn't a fixed pie. Leaders might say, "We're fighting over the last millennial," when in fact, what I found is that they could be saying, "We're all in this together. We all need to figure out a way ...