Towards the Synod: Young people are less religious than older adults

Light of truth

A study by the Pew Research Centre shows that in almost all countries there are differences between young people and older people regarding the importance given to religion; belonging to a group and daily prayer. The influence of economic development, of education, of danger, of age. The cases of Muslim countries, South Korea and Japan.

But even with secularization, the world is becoming more religious. Young people (up to 40 years of age) are less religious than older adults (over forty): this is the conclusion – in some respects obvious – of a long study published by the Pew Research Centre a few days ago. What gives great relevance to this detailed study is the discovery that this difference between young people and adults involves all religions, even if there are some rare exceptions, and is visible in developed and developing countries. Young people’s attitudes are influenced by the greater well-being, greater access to study, changing mentalities throughout the course of life. Such a report is highly useful in preparation for the October Synod, which will focus on the situation of young people in terms of faith and vocation.

The Pew Reserch Centre study covers 106 countries in the world, over a research period of 10 years. In 46 countries, young people (aged 18 to 39) differnegativley to the elderly (40 and over) in saying that “religion is very important;” in 56 countries there are no differences between the two groups. Only in two countries, Georgia and Ghana, young people are more religious than the elderly.

Similar data is reported on other issues such as belonging to a religious group, daily prayer, participation in a weekly religious service. Young people identify themselves less as belonging to a religious group than the older generation in 41 countries; in 63 countries there is no significant difference. Young people pray less than their elders in 71 countries out of 105, and participate less in weekly religious services in 53 countries out of 102.

It must be said that in many countries, the percentage difference between the two groups is not very high: the global average reveals a difference of 5% for affiliation to a particular religious group; 6% for the importance given to religion; 6% for participation in a weekly service; 9% for daily prayer. But there are countries where this difference is very large. The record is in Canada, where this difference is 28 points. In Asia, the figure of South Korea should be noted: a difference of 24 points. In Japan there is a gap of 18 points. Throughout the Asia-Pacific region, the difference is minimal: only 4 points.

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