Gen Z: Increasingly atheist, post-Christian and don't go to church, survey finds

Americans belonging to Generation Z (born between 1999 and 2015) are the least religious in the country's history, a new study has found. Those is the 'post-millennial' cohort are increasingly 'post-Christian': less likely to attend church, and more likely to see science and the Bible as incompatible than previous generations.

Findings from the extensive research by Barna, undertaken alongside the Impact 360 Institute were released yesterday, with the complete study available in the newly released report: Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation.

The number of teens who identify as atheist is now double that of US adults in general (13 per cent against six per cent). It is markedly more than even their direct forbears, the millennial generation, of whom just seven per cent identify as atheist. Sympathy for faith hasn't been extinguished however: 59 per cent of teens identify as either Catholic or simply Christian, though it's a drop from the 75 per cent of the Boomer generation (born 1946-64) who said the same.

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'Gen Z is different because they have grown up in a post-Christian, post-modern environment where many of them have not even been exposed to Christianity or to church. So that is a really unique shift,' said Brooke Hempell, Barna's senior vice president of research, at the survey's release event at Grace Midtown Church, Atlanta, according to the Christian Post.

'There are a lot of churches that are empty in this country. Gen Z is the one who is really showing the fruit of that. There are many of them [who] are a spiritual blank slate. For the first time in our nation's history, that is more and more common.'

The biggest barrier to faith, the study found, was reconciling a good God with the existence of evil and suffering. However generation Z are less likely than millennials, and boomers, to list 'Christians are hypocrites' as a barrier to faith (23 per cent compared with 31 per cent and 25 per cent respectively). They are also less likely to agree that 'religious people are judgemental' than the general population (17 per cent againts 24 per cent of all adults).

Among all generations, the least significant impediment to faith was having a negative experience at church/with a Christian, though millennials and generation Z were the most likely to say this (six per cent).

The study also found that in general generation Z have positive views of church, but are less likely to attend than previous generations. Even among churchgoing teens however, 49 per cent said that, 'The Church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world.' The most common reason for not attending church among non-Christians and Christians in generation Z is that 'Church is not relevant to me personally' (59 per cent), while 48 per cent said that they 'find God elsewhere' – 61 per cent of Christian teens said the same.