Younger Generations Uninterested in Organized Religion Not Missing Out by Greg Gonzales, Southwest Conference Blog, United Church of Christ

Younger Generations Uninterested in Organized Religion Not Missing Out

by Greg Gonzales

Never did I think I’d find God on the internet, but I did toward the end of December 2017. On Radio Garden, a radio station streaming service, I found a Dubai station called Ananaz that played awesome song after awesome song that I’d never heard before — I learned Paul Mauriat covered the “Godfather” theme and that a band called Banda Do Sul covered “Evacuate the Dance Floor.” Each song I learned about helped me branch out to discover more artists, more songs, and to fill my playlists for my own radio show. Those connections, that branching out, is one way I experience God; rather than a being, it’s the process of being, of participating in the world, of moving forward and bursting forth into the future as an effect of an infinite preceding cause, part of the nonstop cosmic evolution. To many, that kind of spirituality is nothing more than hippie-dippie hocus-pocus, but it’s central to my mode of living.

Turns out I’m not alone. A third of Millennials surveyed by Pew Research Center said they don’t affiliate with a religion, but two-thirds of that third said they still believe in a God, or some sort of universal spirit. Adults 18 to 25 apparently aren’t fans of traditional congregations, and I’m one of them. Though I grew up in a Disciples of Christ church, I never have liked the way a service comes off like a performance, or the way some people use church like a way to wash themselves of their wrongdoings. I appreciate the divinity in music, community, and ancient texts, but I don’t feel a need to have all those things bundled for me. I get all of those things in my daily life, through my volunteer work at the radio station, through sharing my homemade wine with friends and family, and by exploring the works of every philosopher from Ancient Greece to post-modern France. For me, choosing non-religious spirituality means not expecting anyone to curate these things for me, and more freedom to explore when I feel inspired (it’s not really acceptable to pull out my phone during the sermon to follow up on a Bible verse, for example).

That’s not the only reason my age group is turning away from organized religion. Some of them are indeed atheists. But the main reasons have more to do with feeling left out of the picture. We feel left out of traditional institutions, but find the same love and divine presence when we get in touch with our bodies at the gym or in yoga, when we join strangers at dinner or in support groups to share honestly our griefs and joys, or get to know our own minds through meditation — we get to become something larger than ourselves without the guidebook. We get to write our own books.

And isn’t the point of that word, gospel, is that it means good news? Those pages have some dust for good news. Though I don’t believe in magical miracles, I do believe in miracles of great fortune, of divine experience, and unconditional love — and those miracles happen every day. As we connect to each other, as we listen to each other’s stories and use those lessons to grow, we gather our own “good news.” Perhaps the only reason the Judeo-Christian traditions are so important still is because the people who lived out those stories bothered to write them down. This generation, and the generations who inspired us, have new gospels to write for a new era.

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