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GenX-ers More Religious Than Boomers?

August 20, 2010

A new study published in the Journal for Scientific Study of Religion says that American GenX-ers, those between the ages of 36 and 50, are more likely to be religious than the Baby Boom generation (typically those around the age of 65). And that is so even though GenX-ers were more likely than Boomers to have been raised without any religious affiliation as children.

Schwadel attributed the younger generation’s overall loyalty to religion to a less staid and more innovative religious scene in America today, while religion in the past was more conservative, less diverse and stricter.

If people are not happy with one religion now, they can easily switch to a different denomination or faith, he added.

By contrast, Baby Boomers were a more rebellious generation and experienced the anti-establishment culture of the 1960s.

“It’s a whole cultural package of suggestions of what went on to make that generation different,” he said…

“The Boomers’ enmity toward organized religion is still evident in the relatively large proportion of their children and grandchildren who are raised with no religious affiliation,” he added.

As a 37-year-old raised by non-religious Boomers, this study really resonates with me. Eventually, as an adult, I found my way to church despite my parents disinterest (maybe even antipathy?) toward organized religion. Of course, the church in which I was baptized 10 years ago (and then ordained this past year), was/is quite open-minded compared to what my parents grew up with in the 1950’s. So I can hardly blame them for turning away from religion as they came of age in the 1960’s.

Still, I’m awfully glad I found my way here and it’s heartening to see that I’m not alone. However, I’m sure there are currently plenty of non-religious GenX-ers–as well as many non-religious GenY-ers and Millenials (in their 20’s and early 30’s)–and I’d really like to introduce as many of them as I can to the Episcopal Church and other open-minded, open-hearted mainline Protestant denominations. Like me, they might decide to stick around.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Murray permalink
    August 22, 2010 12:24 pm

    I would need your definition of open-mindedness before I could understand what you are driving at in this post.

    I was searching around the other day and came across something I found very inspiring and to which my mind and heart said a resounding amen.

    George Fox (1624-1691, often named as the founder of Quakerism), said the following in his journal and which was later published:

    ‘That which I was moved to declare was this: ‘That the holy scriptures were given forth by the Spirit of God; and all people must come to the Spirit of God in themselves, by which they might know God and Christ, of whom the prophets and the apostles learnt; and by the same Spirit know the holy scriptures; for as the Spirit of God was in them that gave forth the scriptures, so the same Spirit of God must be in all them that come to understand the scriptures; by which Spirit they might have fellowship with the Father, with the Son, with the scriptures, and with one another; and without this Spirit they can know neither God, Christ, nor the Scriptures, nor have right fellowship one with another.’

    Would you say that Fox was open-minded and open-hearted? Would you say that I am or I am not for the fact that his words resonate deeply within me?

    I would also say that someone who is not open to what Fox said is close-minded as it concerns the work of the Spirit in giving forth the scriptures and the conditions under which people are able to have true Christian fellowship with one another.

    You might say that Fox is close-minded to the fact that the Scriptures are flawed or that one Scripture might have preference over another.

    I’m not sure what you would say about any of this but I think it unwise to pat oneself or oneself’s group for being open-minded. One can easily have one’s mind open to entirely the wrong things. My guess is that , if you were, you wouldn’t be open-minded to receive that.

  2. jamiemcelroy permalink*
    August 22, 2010 12:52 pm

    The definition of open-mindedness is fairly simple, as far as I’m concerned. It means that one is willing to give another person’s perspective respect, to try another person’s perspective on for size, and consider it in the best possible light. And having done that, if one believes that the other person’s perspective does not jibe with one’s own, I think open-mindedness involves having the humility to express one’s disagreement with respect and with an awareness that one’s disagreement is part of an on-going conversation, and does not involve some sort of final judgment upon the person or the subject in question.

    So regarding Fox’s 17th century pronouncement and Fox himself (having not studied him and knowing nothing of him personally), I have no idea whether I’d find him open-minded or not, were I to meet him. I do know that I’d love to engage him on the questions his statement raises for me. And I’d hope he’d be open-minded enough to engage my questions with respect for me as a fellow human being as well as with interest in my point of view, again, as a fellow human being. Were I a time traveler, I’d sure be interested in him and his perspective, whether or not it fit neatly with my own (and I quite doubt it would).

    A bit of scripture might help illustrate my point on all this. Here’s Jesus preaching from Matthew 7:1-5:

    ‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.’

  3. Murray permalink
    August 22, 2010 2:42 pm

    I believe I read somewhere on this website that you’re married. Would you entertain with an open mind a serious discussion with an advocate of open marriage?

    I also recall that you have children. Would you likewise sit down with a spokesman for NAMBLA if you knew his purpose was to persuade you that you should seriously consider making your children available to members of his group?

    Or, have you and your wife made a decision not to have an open marriage and to protect your children from predators? I assume yes on both points.

    However, would you then not stand accused of a failure to meet your own standards of open-mindedness on these subjects?

    After all, you would not be giving another person’s perspective respect, nor would you be trying another person’s perspective on for size, and considering it in the best possible light.

    I do not, for example, believe that you met your own standards of open-mindedness in our first exchange of views under the topic of “How would we advertise that anyway?” I see zero evidence that you tried my perspective on for size. To the contrary, because you immediately acknowledged there that we were coming from two different directions and consistently throughout that thread tried to persuade me of the validity of your perspective while subtly undermining mine. Or perhaps not so subtly. But not only mine, but also Paul’s in the sense that, clearly, what Paul calls the gospel is not the same as what you call it. You were completely impervious in that case to any suggestion that you might be guilty of failing to heed Paul’s double warning about this when he says and then doubles down and says it again:

    “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.: (Ephesians 1:8-9)

    All of this is perfectly fine with me. I don’t have a problem with finding myself in sharp disagreement with another or fret over whether the other is being sufficiently open-minded to my perspective or vice versa. The Bible makes a point out of warning us against “ever learning but never being able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7) so I think it’s ok to study diligently and arrive at certain conclusions.

    All I’m saying is that I don’t believe you’re as open-minded as you may like to think of yourself as being, Jamie, and that’s perfectly fine as long as you realize it. Also, that it’s actually a bit unattractive to tout one’s own open-mindedness and/or that of being a characteristic of a group with which you are closely identified. It’s similar to claiming to be humble. In a certain sense, you’re negating the virtue by claiming it.

    Also, what I have found over the years with open-mindedness is that it is often something we wish to prescribe for others as it concerns them seeing our perspective but that it is not medicine one normally prescribes for oneself.

    Or, perhaps you use it more as a code word in the sense that you favor ‘radical inclusion,’ which you might be confusing yourself as a being a qualifier for open-mindedness.

  4. jamiemcelroy permalink*
    August 22, 2010 5:43 pm

    I’m not claiming that I consistently or even usually live up to the open-mindedness I describe above. But I do believe in it as a virtue to strive for (and yes, even with an advocate of open marriage–though I don’t know what NAMBLA is). And regarding the original topic of this thread, I’m proud of the Episcopal Church for upholding it as a virtue as well.

    Furthermore, disagreeing with another and attempting to persuade that other of one’s point of view over and above the other’s point of view does not mean one is not respecting that other’s point of view. One can disagree strongly with someone else and still be open-minded as I outlined above. If, in my disagreement with you, I was somehow disrespectful to you and your point of view, I would sincerely apologize. But I don’t think I was. I did, however, disagree with you. And I continue to. But it is, in fact, a mark of my respect for you that I want to engage with you and continue the conversation on precisely the topic on which we disagree. And I must admit: were I not so interested in being open-minded, were I not so interested in demonstrating respect for those with different perspectives than my own, I would not even attempt to engage you in such a disagreement. (Especially when you seem bent on making ad hominem arguments that don’t have anything to do with what we’re discussing.)

    Being open-minded, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t mean never disagreeing with someone else. It means that if you disagree you do so while doing all you can to practice humility and respect. Jesus’ statements about removing the log from one’s own eye is wonderfully instructive in my opinion. If one follows Jesus’ injunction to remove the log from one’s own eye before removing the splinter from another’s eye, then the process of disagreement with another becomes an opportunity to learn something about oneself and to improve oneself, as opposed to an opportunity to learn something about another and to improve another. That’s a high-bar and not one I live up to very often, but I still believe in setting it for myself. And I’m glad that the Episcopal Church generally sets such a high-bar of open-mindedness for itself as an institution.

    Just today, at a meeting following our services, I got to know six new members of our church community who each briefly shared how they eventually found their way to the Episcopal Church in general and St. Peter’s in particular because (in part) here, amid our Cathedral community, they do not feel judged for being themselves, and they feel encouraged to figure out and express their feelings on weighty theological questions without feeling pressured to form particular opinions over and above others. In short, here at St. Peter’s, they do not feel they needed to be other than they are to be accepted. And they shared stories of time they’ve spent as part of other church communities where they felt rather differently. So again, returning to the original topic of this post, I’m proud of the Episcopal Church for offering that sanctuary to people, that “tent in the desert” to use an image from our scriptures. And I’m glad to see people making use of that offering.

  5. Murray permalink
    August 22, 2010 7:43 pm

    ‘And I must admit: were I not so interested in being open-minded, were I not so interested in demonstrating respect for those with different perspectives than my own, I would not even attempt to engage you in such a disagreement.’

    Statement seems self-congratulatory.

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