We all know young Americans are becoming less and less religious, but according to a new survey from the American Enterprise Institute, they’re also shedding religious from major cultural moments.
Just look at weddings. For people 65 and older, 60% of married people said their wedding was performed by a religious leader in a religious setting. Only 2% of them said a friend or family member conducted the ceremony at a secular venue.
For people under 34, however, only 36% had a religious wedding inside a church. Nearly a quarter of them (24%) had a wedding that wasn’t tainted with God.
There is evidence that this trend will continue. Among Americans who have never been married, only 30 percent say they would prefer to be married in a church or other house of worship by a religious leader. Fourteen percent say they would like to be married by a religious leader in a nonreligious setting, while the majority (56 percent) say they would prefer to have their wedding officiated by a justice of the peace, friend, or family member in a nonreligious location.
It’s just an incredible cultural shift. It also makes a lot of sense. If you or your partner isn’t religious, there’s no reason to get married in a church. Converting for the sake of your partner makes no theological sense and dismisses your individuality. And even if you are religious, who wants to declare their love in an institution now known for child raping as much as anything else, by a priest who may not even know you? Why get married in an institution that would reject your LGBTQ friends? Why begin a lifelong relationship in a place that celebrates hate?
There’s something personal about getting married by a mutual friend (who pays a nominal fee to become a priest for a day in states where that’s still necessary), or by a secular celebrant, or just skipping the whole traditional ceremony and doing your own thing.
Speaking of weddings, more non-religious people are partnering up with other non-religious people.
Notably, younger unaffiliated Americans are more likely to have spouses or partners with similar beliefs than are those who are older. Nearly eight in 10 (78 percent) younger unaffiliated Americans (age 18 to 34) say their spouse or partner is also unaffiliated. Among unaffiliated Americans age 50 or older, slightly more than half (55 percent) report that their spouse shares the same religious identity.
This also makes sense, anecdotally — why would you be with someone who doesn’t share your values? Plus, there are just more openly non-religious people. The dating pool is larger for people who take matters of religion seriously.
While the survey doesn’t show this, I would love to see what the increase in non-religious couples means for their future children. What happens when you have a generation raised without organized religion? We’re going to find out. We’re already finding out. It’s a nation in which religious people become more insular and (hopefully) less powerful.
The trends are all moving in the right direction. But that also means religious leaders will work even harder to salvage whatever they can before it gets dismissed.
(Featured image via Shutterstock)