Canadian researchers and 13 denominations across Canada to conduct the largest national study of religious change in 100 years.
What we found is that, increasingly, young adults are choosing "none" as their religious affiliation: Someone with no religious identity whatsoever. Unaffiliated Canadians rank second only to Roman Catholics when it comes to total numbers in this country. But unaffiliated Canadian youth who have left childhood faith communities and then looked for alternatives? They're overwhelmingly embracing a Jesus who claims them just as they are - even if their family and former church community doesn't approve.
Here's what else we learned about Canadian youth after surveying more than 10,000 15-29 year olds over four years:
- Many religions claim youths' attention... but few retain them: of the 9 largest religions in Canada, only 2 show significant growth: Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals. And both of these groups retain less than one percent of Canadians under 30.
- Gen Y is the least religiously literate generation in history: Just 16% can name even one of the four gospels. More than half cannot name any of the 6 major world religions.
- Churchless or not, most are active:
Two thirds are involved in causes they care about, regardless of religious affiliation - while just over a third are involved with churches they attend regularly.
- Many have become reformers within their religion:
Almost 40% claim to have brought change inside their faith community through some form or another - while 42 percent told us that their church could use some "renewal".
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- Most see religion as outdated:
Only one in ten under 30 sees faith as relevant to today's needs. And the least religious generation ever is less likely to be searching for answers to life's toughest questions.
- Young Christians are more progressive than previous generations:
As many Gen Y Christians think homosexuality should be accepted by society (43%) as think it should not (45%). When asked which qualities were most important when choosing a mate, 44% choose mutual attraction and love - while just 14% prioritize similar spiritual beliefs.
- Millennial Catholics are twice as liberal on key social justice issues. For example, 37 percent of Catholic youth say they are in favour samesex relationships - compared with just 19 per cent of their parents' generation.
- Over a third of young adults who've left churches they used to attend, now see Christianity as judgmental and old-fashioned. And the older they were when they left faith behind, the more likely they are to hold negative views about Christianity today.
- Young Christians disagree on some core beliefs: One in five thinks God is female; one in four thinks Jesus wasn't resurrected; and half don't think Satan exists (although most still believe in heaven and hell).
- Most Christians under 30 no longer support religious involvement in politics: Less than half say it's important that a politician share their faith, and only 40% think we should be addressing "moral issues" such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
And although fewer young adults are identifying with Christianity, those who do show a strong commitment to Jesus: Higher than previous generations in key areas of spiritual life like: reading the Bible regularly; spending time alone in prayer; and sharing their faith with others.
Which helps explain why so many Canadian youth say they've encountered God's love - even if they sometimes struggle to see it at church:
"A lot of people I know were Christians but now try and find spirituality on their own terms".
"There is some good that comes out of organized religion but you can't assume that because someone doesn't go to church they're not a good person".
"Life in a small town. The hypocrisy of Christians using people and judging the way they live their lives."
"It leaves me with a very shallow relationship with God. I go to church every Sunday to make my parents happy... But when it's all said and done, I feel like it hasn't impacted my life in any real way".
"The hypocrisy that sometimes comes from organized religion is disgusting".
"This whole Christian generation seems full of hate for other groups. That's not how Jesus would be at all".
"There are so many contradictory ideas about what Christianity even means - no wonder most kids don't believe it!".
"If you want to pray, enter your inner room, lock the door and pray to your Father in secret. Your Father, who hears in secret, will reward you"
- Matthew 6:6
"Our greatest need is to be silent before this great God, with the appetite and with the tongue, for the only language He hears is the silent language of love."
- St. John of the Cross, 'Letter 8,' The Letters