Gen-Z may not be worshiping God, but they're still worshiping
· Jul 15, 2021 ·

The graphic looks shocking, there's no doubt about it. Of course, the graphic was made to look shocking to generate clicks, comments, controversy, conversation, and ultimately cash. But nevertheless, the infographic originating from academic research conducted by Ryan Burge sent shockwaves around various corners of social media:

As Burge points out, the data from Generation Z (that is, Americans currently between the ages of 6 and 24) is eye-popping. But I'll admit that wasn't the first thing I noticed. Maybe it's because I'm one of those oft-forgotten Gen X'ers, but my eyes were immediately drawn to our slow crawl towards a greater awareness and recognition of God. It makes me curious, besides just increased wisdom with age and life experience, about what has caused the positive trajectory.

Still, despite that encouraging sight, there's no question that the majority of commentary centered around the drastically low numbers for both Millennials and Gen Z. Plenty of theories abound as to what is causing such a precipitous drop-off for young Americans rejecting the faith of their parents, ranging from the over-politicization of the church, to bad publicity for faith communities stemming from high-profile sexual abuse cases, to the overwhelming number of time-consuming ventures that now exist, thus crowding out any time for church and religion.

While all of those things play a part, it seems likely to me that if those were the major instigators they would be adversely affecting the older generations at least to some degree as well. So I would suggest there are two other worthwhile observations to make when looking at this data.

First, cell phones are incredibly influential. The access to information is one thing. The obsession with information overload is another.

The millennial and Gen-Z generations are the only ones that have been raised by their cell phones. They get their news from their cell phones. They begin, maintain, and end relationships on their cell phones. They are persuaded and manipulated by social media mobs that manifest on their cell phones. They form opinions and ideas – political, social, and yes, religious – based off of what they see and hear on their cell phones.

There's no time or space for critical thinking on cell phones, only sound bite, meme-generated pseudo-profundity. On a cell phone you never have to be sure of what you do believe and why, so long as you regularly pound away with the mob at what you don't believe and why. Faith and traditional concepts of God are easy targets.

These realities make our younger generations ripe for dissatisfaction with "old" things like church and organized religion, and provoke a hunger for whatever strikes them as unique and "authentic." Which means, in truth, it isn't that the millennials and Gen-Z don't believe in God; it's just that they have a hundred other things they worship as god.

And that's the second observation I would make. Yesterday I was working on laying some sheet vinyl flooring on my back porch. I had cut it to what I thought were exact measurements, but it turned out being about a half-inch too wide. Rather than yank it all up to recut, I tried sliding it under my wall boards to make it fit. For an hour I fought the air bubble in the flooring that wouldn't flatten out. When it would pop up in the middle, I would push it down only to see it pop up closer to the wall. I'd chase it over there and pretty soon it would be back in the middle. Trying to get rid of it was maddening.

So it is with our worship.

You can deny the existence of God by pushing Him out of your life. But the problem you'll run into is that we were all made by that God to worship Him. So even if you arrogantly choose to deny Him, just like an air bubble you push down, your worship will pop up in the form of idolatry somewhere else. If Burge's numbers are accurate, that's exactly what's happening with the 56% of millennials and 67% of Gen Z'ers who reject belief in their Creator. They may not be worshiping God, but they are worshiping a god.

  • They worship the idol of race
  • They worship the idol of sex
  • They worship the idol of self
  • They worship the idol of science
  • They worship the idol of political power
  • They worship the idol of earth

That may appear to fill the void for a time, but the looming catastrophe is what Tim Keller once observed: "Counterfeit gods always disappoint, and often destructively so." May God grant His followers wisdom and discernment as He works through us to deliver the precious souls of these confused generations from their rebellion.


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