A Note from the Editor: With Lent fast approaching we asked our writers the following exam question, and gave them freedom to record their own unfinished thoughts. For many of us, “religion” is a particularly personal area of thought to record, let alone discuss. So we are glad to post a number of articles offering a broad range of unfinished thoughts, and if you’d like to read the others you can do so here.
“Religion is simply no longer relevant to Millennials. In particular, they feel Christianity is hypocritical, judgemental, too political, and out of touch with reality.“
Over to Casper…
As a so-called ‘Millenial’ myself, I’ve been on somewhat of a rollercoaster journey with religion in my (nearly) 27 years on this planet. I’ve seen it as true, untrue; relevant, irrelevant; pure, evil (notice the comma) so I can see it from both sides of the fence.
My 2 pence worth centres on to two paradigms held by Millenials: Rational thought, and instant gratification.
The Millenials are also known as ‘Generation Y’ – a highly entertaining play on words, as we both follow Generation X and are inclined to ask ‘Why?’ – a lot. In my view, religion has become increasingly irrelevant to this generation because it doesn’t come up with what many of my age would consider satisfactory answers to things. A bit of a downer for religion, when one of its underlying principles is to tell us ‘why’ when no-one else can come up with an answer.
We’re educated in a way that previous generations haven’t been. And I don’t just mean at school. We are educated about the world in greater breadth and depth than have been generations past, through multimedia, 24 hour news, and yes (I’m happy to propose) a better education at school. This has led to a generation that respects and requires critical thought when looking for answers, no longer content with the ‘Because God did it’ line of reasoning. Why do bad things happen? Where is the human race going? For that matter, where has it come from? And a thousand more questions besides.
The founding father of every answer must be evidence. We are nowadays exposed to so many opinions, so many points of view, so many different ways of looking at and explaining any one situation, that many of us are compelled to slash Occam’s Razor left right and centre until we are left with the explanation that looks most plausible. And for many Millenials (try saying that 10 times in a row) that explanation is the one with the strongest evidence. Can religion be that explanation? It seems many Millenials (try again) say no, for reasons too steeped in history and debated over to go into here.
Religion – by necessity – requires that leap of faith. Faith – by definition – is belief without evidence. Sorry, say Millenials, you’ve got to do better than that. If I’m going to believe something, I need to know Y.
So that’s rational thought. My second proposed paradigm was instant gratification. It’s a ‘buzz phrase’ of my generation. Our parents hate it, we see it as no bad thing, but we don’t want our children to live by it either. We want what we want now; not three, five or 20 years in the future. Whilst Evangelical wings of Church exploded in the 80s and 90s in the UK, bringing with them certain elements of mass celebration and group euphoria (I’m looking at you, Soul Survivor), this kind of instant gratification has a shelf life, and it ain’t a long one. The services are adrenalin-fuelled and exciting, you leave on a high, and ‘religion’ seems to have given you the kind of instant gratification you though only possible from certain elements of the secular world.
But rapidly the euphoria dies away, and you’re left questioning the fundamentals of what last week seemed so self-evidently true that you would never challenge it again. I’m not saying it’s a good thing – far from it – but Millenials like their gratification instant, and I’ve never seen religion match the secular in this way. If there’s truth in religion – and I’m not discounting that as a possibility – then it seems to me it is only discovered after a personal journey that requires effort, questions, answers, relationships, study… All of that takes time, and it’s quicker to watch a film, take a drug or have a night out, and get your gratification that way.
This thought is unfinished, as is tradition. The two points I raise are, I’d wager, just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t think the majority of Millenials see religion as relevant, and I daresay the homophobic clergy (who are the minority but always make the headlines), the mediaeval costumes (which give the whole thing a sense of gravitas lost in modern churches) and the stereotype of Christians as boring, conservative, happy-clappy sandal-wearers (too strong?) don’t help.
But I think Millenials deserve more credit than this, and that they think deeper about religion than perhaps Generation X perceives. They ask why. And at the moment, religion isn’t giving them the answers they want.