The United States has created a reputation for being a Christian nation. We’ve grown up chanting, “One nation, under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, while the insignia “In God We Trust” is flashed every time someone takes out a dollar bill. Although we are a constitutionally secular state, religion has etched its way into the backbone of America’s political belief system, serving as a basis for political decision making.
Amid America’s youth culture, however, a paradigm shift has taken place.
Nontheistic ideas have become less taboo and even attractive to many young adults today.
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center has shown the substantial increase of doubt in the existence of God among adults under 30. Since 2007, the number of young adults in America who disagreed with the statement, “I never doubt the existence of God” has doubled in percentage from 15 percent to 30 percent. A similar survey revealed that more than a fourth of America’s youngest generation doesn’t associate with any particular religion.
As the generation of Millennials in America, we’ve become spurs of secular thinking in contemporary America.
The rise of secularism among the Millennial generation, as it stands right now, is a significant silver lining in the somewhat cloudy predicament of our political situation. This could be a step to a more legitimate constitutional belief system; one that does what our current one cannot — separate religion from politics.
Secular thought has been embraced in much of the developed world, including Canada, South Korea and throughout Western Europe. While irreligious in nature, secularism doesn’t seek to disprove or attack religious belief. Instead, it notes religion as inconsequential in political, educational and social action.
The decline of religious identification in America is distinctly characteristic to our generation. Because of this, there is a major gap between the belief system of older generations — namely Baby Boomers — and our own.
What led us down the proverbial path of godlessness? A short answer may simply be an increase in general knowledge. Lack of faith is more prominent in those who are college-educated than among those who have only completed high school. We are also native to the technological era; we have had the opportunity to directly access a vast amount of information and opinion through any medium of media. Moreover, the Internet has been used as a place for people to openly question and discuss the existence of a god through an outlet where they won’t face any type of real persecution.
Communities for atheists have been formed in response to the flouted institution of secularism, and this seems to be a natural reaction. What makes religion so pervasive in politics is the factor of community. Wherever a Catholic goes, they will be able to find a school, church or other place where Catholics gather. That shared sense of unity in religion has been applied to the nonbelievers as well.
Theocracy has no place in government — and it never did. Separation of church and state is as old as the Constitution itself. Theocratic patriotism became prominent in the 1950s when the coined term “In God We Trust” was added to our currency.
We are steering America in the direction of liberal democracy, where secularism is necessary in order to govern. Religious heritage and history are still incredibly important and should not be discounted as influences for our generation. However, we should strive to celebrate political, cultural and religious diversity. Secular philosophy is integral in developing a further understanding of these differences, particularly in the realm of politics.