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Millennial Generation challenges religion in America

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Not just youthful skepticism

And for any who may believe that the generation's lesser commitment to specific denominations or participation in religious rituals simply stems from youthful skepticism, Pew tracking surveys indicate otherwise. Millennials are twice as likely to be unaffiliated with a specific denomination than were baby boomers in the 1970s and 1-1/2 times more likely than were members of Generation X in the 1990s – when both of those cohorts were the age that Millennials are today.

In the end, however, perhaps the biggest impact Millennials will have on the country's religious landscape is to increase its diversity and expand the definition of what faiths are recognized as part of the American mainstream.

Since ratification in 1791, the First Amendment has protected the rights of religious minorities and nonbelievers. But from the beginning, the United States has been predominantly a Christian, and more specifically, a Protestant, nation. The Millennials put a large dent in that description.

This generation is not only the most ethnically diverse in US history, it is also the most religiously diverse. Millennials are half as likely to be white Evangelicals or Roman Catholics and a quarter less likely to be white mainline Protestants compared with older generations. By contrast, they are twice as likely to be Hispanic Catholics or unaffiliated and a third more likely to be non-Christians (Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists), finds Pew.

As a result of all these trends, only two-thirds (68 percent) of Millennials are Christian, compared with about 80 percent of older Americans. Fewer than half (43 percent) are Protestant, in contrast to 53 percent of all older generations and almost two-thirds of senior citizens.

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