Millennial Christians more likely than older generations to question beliefs, survey finds

(Pixabay/tpsdave)A recent Barna survey has found that approximately 65 percent of American Christians have experienced spiritual doubt.

A recent Barna Group study has found that Millennial Christians in the U.S. are more likely than older generations to doubt their faith.

The findings of the survey conducted among 1,015 American adults between June 5–9 indicated that 38 percent of Millennial Christians have questioned their faith, compared to 23 percent of Gen-Xers, 19 percent of Boomers and 20 percent of Elders.

Overall, approximately 65 percent of American Christians have admitted having spiritual doubts. Twenty-six percent said they still have spiritual doubt, while 40 percent said they experienced it in the past but have worked through it. Only 35 percent of the respondents said they have never experienced doubt at all.

Among those who either currently or previously expressed spiritual doubt, 45 percent left their church or worship gatherings. About 29 percent discontinued reading the Bible, while 29 percent stopped praying. Another 25 percent refrained from talking about spirituality, God or religion with friends or family. The researchers noted that millennials were "significantly more likely than other generations to stop doing all of the above, and at rates much higher than the general population."

On the other hand, 39 percent of those who questioned their faith did not change anything in response to their doubt.

The report also found that 40 percent of those who experienced spiritual doubt went to their friends or family to find help or answers, while 19 percent turned to their spouse. Twenty-two percent turned to the church, while 29 percent looked to the scriptures for support.

However, only 18 percent turned to their pastor or spiritual leader for answers. Barna researchers suggested that this may be due to "the awkwardness of confiding in the individuals and institution that represent one's questions, as well as the challenges that ministry leaders face to create safe spaces for doubt."

Fifteen percent of doubters turned to books on God, spirituality or religion, while 12 percent turned to online resources for help or answers.

Twelve percent said that they lost their faith following the period of questioning, but 53 percent of self-identified Christians said their faith became stronger as a result of their experience with doubt. Twenty-eight percent said that the spiritual doubt they experienced had no effect on them at all.

"Spiritual doubt has been a reality of the Christian journey since the disciples—and today is no different," said Roxanne Stone, editor in chief of Barna Group.

"Just like first century Christians, their twenty-first century counterparts question aspects of their theology, doubt the existence of God and mourn his seeming absence during hard times. Doubt remains a flip side on the same coin as faith. For the majority of Christians, this inevitable doubt is a catalyst to spiritual growth," she added.

Out of the 1,015 U.S. adults surveyed, the researchers examined the responses of 888 current and former Christians with an error rate of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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