A study by the US-american research center Pew shows that in 46 countries – most of which the higher developed countries – people under the age of 40 have a significant lesser interest in religion¹. Additionally there are clear similarities between the absence of faith in a certain country and its Human Development Index. Almost all of the highly developed countries have a large percentage of people who think themselves as non-religious – up to 73 percent in Scandinavia².

Why is the youth less religious?

Many of the young people might see the practicing of a religion as an old-fashioned, outdated thing. This change in the way of thinking can be caused by heavy, partially justified criticism by society and media nowadays. Extremism or strict intolerances by certain religious groups always find themselves in the centre of such discussions. And they can be used as arguments against the exertion of religion. The younger generation, which grew upwith the media and is therefore permanently surrounded by it, may be influenced more than elders.

Of course one also has to mention the progress science made in the last couple of centuries or even decades. Today we have lots of solutions for questions mankind simply could not answer just 100 years ago. Teenagers get confronted with undeniable facts in science classes and something you can prove with logic apparently seems more correct than thousands of years old stories only communicated orally.

Is religion a bad thing?

Being religious itself should not be seen as something bad. It has taught us important values of life which still apply today, such as the inner strength, the message of forgiveness, selfless service and the golden rule “We must treat others as we wish others to treat us“. Faith can also often be a source of motivation and improve human behaviour. Religion has had a massive impact on culture, too. Over centuries it managed the way people talk, think and interact. All of this is reason enough for governments of highly developed countries to still have mandatory religious education in schools.

Does religion have a future?

The higher the educational level of people, the weaker their faith in religion³. If the trend continues, the number of people going to church will decrease further and there will probably be more people with an opposed attitude towards religion in the future. But will it disappear completely? Most likely not. Faith has changed over the years, humans always had something irrational to believe in and this will probably also be the case in the next few centuries. Even if it’s not a god, most of the irreligious people believe in something that cannot be scientifically proven like luck or destiny, because it is in our nature, it is the simple way of thinking.

But in my opinion, if the traditional religions want to keep their members, they do have to change. They should become more open-minded instead of holding on to hundreds of years old traditions and make people feel like they belong to them instead of pushing them away. I want them to actively fight extremism instead of just denying and pretending that extremists do not belong to them. Society has changed more than ever in the near past, so it should be the religions’ job to adapt to it.

Photos by Joni Kuusisto