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Losing Our Religion: Study Shows Decline in Religious Affiliation

by Kate Morris, published

spirit of america / spirit of america /

It’s sundown at Wild Honey Studios, a raw fashion-ready loft on the east side of the LA River. Six career-driven young Americans sit around a vegetarian spread, talking God.

They come from different backgrounds -- Jewish, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, agnostic -- and they are on varying career paths, but the conversation remains curiously unheated. Everyone has one thing in common: none of them affiliate with the religion in which they were raised.

“I went through the whole Catholic School system,” fashion photographer, Chris Guerrero* says mid drag from a Marlboro Light. “Honestly it never clicked.”

Private chef, Barbie Zyanmar*, had a similar journey growing up in a devout Jehova’s Witness household. “I was so afraid of disappointing my parents. It took me years to find the courage. But, now I’m so much happier. I am so much more in touch with myself.”

According to a Pew study titled "Nones on the Rise," their shared perspective is becoming more and more common in contemporary American culture.

The study, released last month, reveals that one in five Americans (20 percent) hold no religious affiliation which is higher than any time in U.S. history. To put it simply, One Nation under God doesn’t carry the same symbolic weight with these dinner guests as it did to their parents. Tweet stat: Tweet

“It’s a huge change,” said Harvard professor Robert Putnam.

More alarming is the whopping 1/3 of Americans under 30 who attest they belong to no established institution. However, that doesn’t mean the nation’s youth aren’t searching. Tweet stat: Tweet

The Lost Generation. That’s what some have called today’s under-30 cast of Americans coming of age in a feeble job economy. A population of post-Enlightened, soul-searchers working unpaid internships, lingering in grad school, trying to figure it out in a climate of uncertainty.

Earlier this month, NPR’s Morning Edition pulled some like-minded young people together to discuss what spirituality looks like for the increasingly individualized, twitter-centric generation. Their findings are worth meditating on. Pun intended.

One commonality was how young people are coping on the outskirts of orthodoxy. Liz Reeves, one of the NPR interviewees, raised Jewish, spoke to this paradox:

I wanted so badly to believe in God and in heaven…. And ultimately the more time I spent thinking about it, I realized the purpose and meaning of his life had nothing to do with heaven, but it had to do with how I could make choices in my life that give his life meaning. And that had a lot more weight with me than any kind of faith in anything else.

Back at Wild Honey Studios, Hillary Burrows, an Hollywood-based Ad Exec gushes about her newfound individual practice: personal meditation and exercise program. “It is completely transforming my daily existence. I have purpose and intention for the first time since I can remember.”

“I wish I questioned less,” graphic designer, Stephanie Hurtado*, chimes in. Stephanie is a self-proclaimed atheist in large, cradle Catholic Pilipino family. “I love and respect my family in their convictions. I’m just not there. And I may never be.”


Author’s note: At the request of those interviewed at Wild Honey Studios, I have altered their names to maintain their personal and professional integrity.

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