Generational Change: Religion or Spirituality

Christianity has been steadily declining in America for several decades. Beginning with the Baby Boomers, the percentage of people who identify themselves as Christians has decreased with each passing generation. The advent of this decrease coincided with the scientific and technology advancements the 1950s. Televisions had become the primary source of news and entertainment. Access to information increased along with scientific advancement. New products ranging from birth control to LP records, heavily influenced this generation. Popular opinion drove revolution as children began to reject their parents’ traditional values and press for change.

The transition away from religion that began with the Baby Boomers, was further realized by Gen X. Disenfranchised by the judgmental and hypocritical nature of old-fashioned church goers, this generation looked to science to explain the unknown. The dawn of the internet made world news and information

more accessible than ever before. Confident that science held all the answers to our existence, the idea of spirituality became a joke. Those holding to Christianity were often considered uneducated or naïve. God was easily dismissed as a means of control rooted in superstition.

The skepticism of this generation had a direct impact on the following generation. Millennials grew up surrounded by religious skepticism and cynicism. Many raised without any spiritual foundation or first hand knowledge of religious beliefs. This clearly explains the significant generational decline in Christianity, which doubled from Gen X (-8%) to Millennials (-16%). This clearly demonstrates the impact each generation has upon the generation to come. In fact the Bible repeatedly stresses the importance of passing on the knowledge of God to the next generations.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-8

He established a testimony in Jacob
    and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
    to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
    whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Psalm 78:5-8

The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’

Numbers 14:18

The decline in Christianity and organized religion has also been paralleled with an increase in depression and anxiety among these generations. While many remain in the religious “none” category, there is a growing number who are searching for something more. We have spiritual needs that knowledge alone can’t satisfy. Many of the Millennials and Gen Z that are spiritually searching. Without a religious foundation, they are searching without a compass. The desire for spirituality combined with parental distrust of religious institutions has led to a rise in alternative spirituality, occult practices, and neo-paganism.

These occult practices were popularized among Baby Boomers, collectively described as “New Age” religion. They have regained popularity with Millennials and Gen Z through exposure on social media platforms. Metaphysical stores and websites have become easy to find. Offering a wide array from crystals to astrology guides and tarot cards. They also offer and appeal to a wide range of alternative spiritualism including Hindu, Wicca, and other pagan tradition. Website even offer education on how to become a practicing witch by providing articles on spell casting and pagan holidays.

As a member of the cynical Gen X, it’s hard to understand how the younger generations could buy into such things. When I was a teen these were things to be mocked or laughed at at make believe. Yet, the younger generations have a spiritual yearning that my generation didn’t have. And its not really hard to see why these practices would be appealing to them. This type of spirituality allows them to feel in control at a time in their lives when so much is out of their control. These practices don’t require anything from you, and they don’t ask you to change. Further it can provide ritual, a sense of spirituality, and a community to belong to. Sadly, these are the same things that appeal to many Christians about Christianity. But ritual is not what God desires, he wants a personal relationship.

If we attend church, tithe, receive sacrament, or read scripture out of ritual or obligation, then Christianity is reduced to mere spiritualism. There is meaning behind each of these acts that is meant to connect us spiritually with our Creator. Without a heart filled with worship and gratitude, we lose the meaning behind them. Our religion becomes becomes hollow and empty. We are merely going through the motions.

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6

Bring no more vain offerings;
    incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
    I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.

Isaiah 1:13

When our focus shifts to ritual over relationship, Christian beliefs are twisted and distorted. God can only shape our lives through active relationship. Settling for a second-hand relationship allows the world to shape us in its image. In 2017, six-in-ten Christians admitted to holding at least one New Age belief – such as reincarnation, astrology, psychics and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects like mountains or trees. If we are not reading God’s Word we may be unknowingly doing or saying things that are in direct contradiction to Christian values.

“‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:31

Why does God forbid these occult practices? Because they are nothing more than an illusion, smoke and shadows. They promise what they can’t fulfill. They draw us away from God by selling a lie, fooling us into believing we can know the future. Spiritual fulfillment and satisfaction can only be found in God.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Romans 1:25

At best, occult practices offer excitement and a taste of spirituality by filling you with ritual. Yet, it doesn’t last and you are left spiritually empty and ashamed. At worst, occult practices pull you in deeper to a power in opposition to God. Instead of going through the motions or going with the flow, we should be giving serious thought to our spiritual direction. What do you hope to gain from spirituality? Where do you want to place our faith? Where will this faith lead? Do my choices reflect these principles? What path do we want to set the next generation on? Each of these questions should be carefully considered. We must open our eyes to the truth.

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