Americans skeptical of God but think heaven is real, somehow


Since 1980, the number of Americans who believe in God has decreased by half and the number who pray has declined five-fold.

The United States formally separates Church and State, but it’s hard to deny that America is inundated with religious innuendo, from its controversial pledge of allegiance all the way down to its Judeo-Christian courthouse displays and faith-espousing legal tender. Yet fewer Americans pray or believe in God than ever before, according to a new study in the journal Sage Open.

Researchers found that the percentage of Americans who claim they never pray reached an all-time high in 2014, up five-fold since the 1980s. Over the same time period, belief in God and interest in spirituality appears to have similarly declined, especially among young adults.

The findings suggest that, “millennials are the least religious generation in memory, and possibly in American history,” says Jean M. Twenge, psychology professor at San Diego State University and coauthor on the study, in a press statement. “Most previous studies concluded that fewer Americans were publicly affiliating with a religion, but that Americans were just as religious in private ways. That’s no longer the case, especially in the last few years.”…

…One odd quirk, however—Americans have become slightly more likely to believe in an afterlife, even as they are abandoning prayer, belief in God and rituals. This, too, is perhaps a telling sign of America’s newfound relationship with old-time religion. “It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality,” Twenge said. “Thinking you can get something for nothing.”



In a way it doesn’t surprise me, but it doesn’t make much sense at all. I’m a senior in high school and most kids I know are in the “spiritual but not religious” category they’re the type if you were to ask they’re religion they’d say “Uhh I dunno I guess Christian.” However, unfortunately, we’ve had four students die since I’ve been in high school, and of course after they pass their Facebook messages get flooded with “Oh, you’re with God now.” “You’ll be in a better place.” or “Prayers for your family”


Believing in Heaven gives comfort. Believing in God means that there might be rules that they have to follow, and they’ll need to straighten up. It’s easier to believe in Heaven. Deep inside they know that God and Heaven go together, but people are really good at ignoring inconvenient facts.


I don’t think this is a surprise or different from many other countries. I have heard people who express doubts about God talk about a strong sense of spiritually which of course tends to focus on the afterlife.


‘Decreased by half’

That’s not what most surveys will show I think you’ll find.

When asked if they believe in “God or a universal spirit” in the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, 89% of U.S. adults say yes – down from 92% from the previous RLS in 2007. Nearly one-in-ten (9%) now say they don’t believe in God, up from 5% in 2007.

There are actually a percentage of people who claim to be atheists “who believe in God or a universal spirit”:


Maybe that’s why America is in so much turmoil . We’ve pushed God out of our society. How can there be a Heaven or any afterlife without God. It didn’t just" pop" out of nowhere. Oh, there wouldn’t even be a “nowhere” without God would there??? There wouldn’t even be any life or anything without God. God Bless, Memaw


Godless secular education produces a more Godless population. Pretty simple.


Perhaps it’s all the psychic shows on TV over the last decade and a half…showing people getting readings via mediums to connect with their loved ones on “the other side.”
They are less religious, but more…“spiritual”–as many like to say.



Popular spiritism has been around for about 150 years, so that’s nothing new. And of course paganism is much older.

This “spiritual but not religious” trend in my generation goes to show that irreligion is not motivated by intellectual enquiry; it’s just sloth. A hell of a lot of sloth. Also lust, which produces more sloth. They don’t want to sacrifice to develop any virtues, and ignoring God means they don’t have to. But heaven? Sure. Gimme heaven.


A lot of people research religions thoroughly and with much curiosity and fervor, and then decide against them.
Just because a person is not religious, it doesn’t automatically mean they are full of lust, sloth, and lacking in virtues.
That is a major over-generalization, conclusion-jumper, and misconception I read a lot here on this forum and it baffles me.
Do you not have any non-reigious friends who have many virtues?



I think the problem is multi faceted, but I believe it started with the baby boomers.

Many were poorly catechized, probably due to Vatican II and the secular upheaval of the 60’s, so we were unable or unwilling to pass the faith on to the GenX’ers and Millenials. It was the baby boomers that really stopped going to Church, so I don’t really blame these younger generations. They’ve had little guidance or exposure to the faith. Most wouldn’t even know where to turn if they wanted to be religious.

It also takes some work, time and study to understand religion. To know God takes time, and people are to busy to give God that time. How many times do we hear, “I’m a good person”, which seems to be all that people believe it takes to make it to heaven. Easy, breezy, no work, no time, no reading, praying or Church necessary.

In any case, it’s a sad statement of our condition…


You can discuss the general population in general terms and rules, without having to list off every single exception. Sure there are a small minority of people who actually do what you describe. But for the vast majority of people, they don’t. They are exactly as he described. They want the good results (Heaven) without paying the price (worshipping and obeying God). So they slide into the “spiritual but not religious” area so they don’t have to do anything, but can still believe they are going to Heaven.

You’ll see more of this as more people reject truth and God, but don’t want the actual nihilistic and meaningless worldview of atheism.


Yes I’m generalizing because I think it’s generally true. Many of my friends are irreligious, sadly. They do have some virtues, but I would venture to guess they were blessed with those virtues naturally. Those who choose atheism as a result of intellectual rigor are in the distinct minority. Reading blog posts and The God Delusion and then deciding to be “spiritual but not religious” rarely if ever results in any compelling arguments against Christianity in my experience. The misconceptions about the church are so prevalent and pernicious that most millennials are attacking straw men all the time, if they even care enough to discuss it. We live and breathe lust; and sloth (not the same thing as laziness) keeps us busy, but about trivial things. We are completely captivated by a spirit of entertainment.


Yes, but therein lies a problem.

My friends with those good virtues tell me they are “good people”, and therefore, that will be enough to get them to heaven. But the religious understand we must take our salvation seriously, with fear and trembling, and that there are indeed other things we must do to secure our salvation.

I believe that is the reason that the whole evangelical movement is so popular today - it’s easy. OSAS, church is unnecessary, sola scriptura, etc.

People need to be scared straight about their salvation IMHO…


I know many people like this too, I have a few friends that are generally good people, but they are not religious, never been to a church, or confession. they do not seem to take the afterlife that seriously from what Ive heard from them. One guy, when we were talking about this, said I hope God will just let me sleep when I die, implying that he is banking on God just letting him go ‘extinct’ basically, and not exist anymore!


A lot of people research religions thoroughly and with much curiosity and fervor, and then decide against them.
Just because a person is not religious, it doesn’t automatically mean they are full of lust, sloth, and lacking in virtues.

But I repeat; just because one wants the good results without worshipping any gods, it still does not mean they are apathetic, lustful, and have no virtues…which is what the poster was saying.

Does “worshipping and obeying God” = paying a price?

People can “pay a price” without it having to do with worshipping a god or God



Yes, one who worships and obeys God does pay a price in todays society, but we receive rewards that a person with just good virtues will never know…

Good virtues are nothing special, but you are making them sound as though they are… God instills goodness and good vitues in every man, it’s called natural law. That so many people waste them and do wrong is not Gods fault because He also gives us free will, which he doesn’t interfere with.

Way to many people are depending on the “I’m a good person” mantra to make it to heaven. I pray they are right…


Too many atheists tell themselves we worship God because it gives us some kind of warm and fuzzy feeling (something they learned from Freud, Marx etc.)… So they discredit the motives for faith. Actually true worship involves a lot of hard work and persistence, born of conviction. The “spiritual but not religious” crowd - probably most millennials - grasp the warm and fuzzy comfort without any hard truths about God.

In a way these trends are good because they undo the lies from past generations. We can clearly see now, at least for Catholics, that religion is not the opiate of the masses. Spirituality without religion is. So atheists will either need another narrative or maybe accept that what motivates genuine faith is truth, not irrational feelings.


I’m reminded of Dante’s Inferno where the entryway to hell is populated by “futile” spirits, who maybe did good deeds in life but without any ultimate purpose. Dante then portrays the first ring of hell for the “virtuous pagans”: an attractive place free of any particular torments except despair.

A popular secular saying is “no man is an island” - a truth from humanism that we can’t be happy on our own and we need other people. Something we can learn from Christianity is that “mankind is not an island” and we cannot reach total happiness (heaven) on our own, we need God. Natural virtues and goodness can only bring is to the brink of hell.


Thanks for not solely blaming the Millennials :wink:

Seriously though I think your point is spot on. In another thread we were discussing the idea that religion is ultimately instilled in someone by their family (primarily their parents) who then expose them to church, etc… I know from experience that the baby boomers did a pretty poor job of instilling that faith in the Millennial generation. I mean I can count the number of baby boomers who actually attend church regularly that I know personally on less than my two hands, never . So it’s little surprise that their children are equally as unchurched and have even less belief in God.

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