Is religion dying out? Fewer people believe in God than 30 years ago – but millennials are more likely to have faith in an afterlife

People believe more in the afterlife than ever as a ‘rise in the something-for-nothing mentality’, an academic has argued.

Despite belief in God falling to lower levels than at any time in history in US society, there is an increasing belief in the afterlife among US citizens, a survey found.

Increasing feelings of ‘entitlement’ may be fuelling a rise in believing in life after death, despite not accepting religion or God, academics suggested.

A study of 58,893 Americans between 1972 and 2014 found that five times as many Americans admitted to never praying in 2014 compared to those who answered the same question in the 1980s.

Twice as many said they did not believe in God over the same period.

Dr Jean Twenge of San Diego State University said Americans are becoming more secular.

The one exception to the decline in religious beliefs was a slight increase in belief in the afterlife.

She said: ‘It was interesting that fewer people participated in religion or prayed but more believed in an afterlife.

‘It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality – thinking you can get something for nothing.’

The biggest declines in belief in God have been found among 18 to 29-year-olds, according to Dr Twenge in research published in the journal Sage Open.

The findings also contradict widely-held opinions that while people may believe less in formal, organised religion there has been an increase in private spirituality.

Dr Twenge said: ‘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.’

She added: ‘The large declines in religious practice among young adults are also further evidence that Millennials [people born between 1980 and 2000] are the least religious generation in memory, and possibly in American history.’

Similar findings have been found in the UK.

A 2012 survey by the Institute of Education found that 49 per cent of Britons born in 1970 believed there is ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ life after death.

Only 31 per cent have said that they believe in God, either without doubts (13 per cent) or with some doubts (18 per cent).

The survey was of 9,000 Britons whose views have been tracked for decades.


Dwelling on what could have gone wrong in the past could strengthen your belief in a higher power.

Psychologists have found that those looking back on ‘what might have been’ when reflecting on a major life event that could have turned out poorly reinforces the notion of divine intervention.

In particular, hindsight following a change of fortunes that turned out for the better bolsters a person’s belief in God and believers use it to rationalise their faith in the face of doubt and scientific evidence.

Source – The Daily Mail

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