50 experts on young adults’ relationship to organized religion

Courtesy of Connor Cunningham via Creative Commons

Young adults today are less involved with organized religion than any generation before them. More than one-third of millennials are religiously unaffiliated, and they show little interest in returning to church as they age. 

“Older millennials have not become substantially more likely to participate in small-group religious activities or say they rely on religion for guidance on questions of right and wrong,” Pew Research Center reported in 2015. 

However, that doesn’t mean there’s no place for faith and spirituality in the lives of young adults. Many embrace practices from a variety of traditions, mixing meditation with scripture study or solstice celebrations.

Additionally, millennials and members of Generation Z have helped make secular spaces, like gyms and supper clubs, more sacred, emphasizing social connections and deep conversations. Some young adults have launched programs, such as Nuns and Nones, that aim to close the gap between religious “nones” and people of faith, focusing on shared values and goals.  

This edition of ReligionLink explores the complex and at-times surprising role religion and spirituality play in the lives of members of the millennial and Gen Z generations. It aims to correct some common misperceptions and connect you with experts who can help you tell stories that don’t receive much attention. 

For more information on how the religious landscape is changing, check out previous editions on religious demographics and new forms of worship.

Background reading

Related research

U.S. sources

International sources

  • Sergio DellaPergola

    Sergio DellaPergola is a professor emeritus of Israel-Diaspora relations at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has studied Jewish millennials in the U.S. and Israel.

  • Sebastian Duhau

    Sebastian Duhau serves as retreats and programs coordinator for De La Salle District of Australia, a Catholic order that works to help young people in need. In 2018, he was a youth delegate to the Synod of Bishops in Rome, which focused on youth, faith and vocational discernment. 

    Contact: +61 02 9795 6456.
  • Daniel Faas

    Daniel Faas is an associate professor of sociology at Trinity College Dublin. He studies social change and identity formation, with an emphasis on migration, religion and education.

  • Shelina Janmohamed

    Shelina Janmohamed is a London-based Muslim author, analyst and brand consultant. She is the author of two books, including Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World. Use the contact form on her website to arrange an interview.

  • Vicenc Molina Oliver

    Vicenc Molina Oliver is a professor at the University of Barcelona, where he studies civil rights, ethics and secularism. He has researched the rise of religious “nones” in Spain.

  • Andrew Singleton

    Andrew Singleton is a sociologist of religion at Deakin University in Australia. He studies spirituality, New Religious Movements and young people’s relationship with faith.

  • Joel Thiessen

    Joel Thiessen is a sociology professor at Ambrose University in Calgary, Canada, and he also directs the school’s Flourishing Congregations Institute. He studies Canadian millennials’ relationship to religion and the rise of religious “nones” across North America.

  • Galen Watts

    Galen Watts is a Ph.D. candidate in cultural studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is studying contemporary spirituality and has focused his research on Canadian millennials.