A Generation Without Religion: How Millennials Identify With Spirituality

by ZK Lowenfels

Generation-Y has been called a “generation without religion” -- a generation that rejected our parents’ beliefs and more than that, the institutions to which our parents belong.

There is much speculation as to why this is. Maybe we grew up too close to the time of the rise of the Internet with so much information and exposure at our fingertips.

Maybe we were told too often we could be anything we wanted that we chose to ignore rules and regulations. Maybe the crash of the economy turned us into rebels who say everything before us failed so we need to clean the slate.

As much as we do reject formal religion, studies have revealed that much of our generation remains spiritual. The exact phrase thrown around is “spiritual, but not religious.”

To debate the exact lines that this statement draws for another article, I’m most interested in the kinds of spirituality I’ve encountered.

The Universe Has A Plan

Whether you study Eastern philosophies, like Buddhism, or hang with a hippie crowd or maybe just watch a lot of “How I Met Your Mother,” you probably find peace in knowing that each event in your life carries meaning.

Signs indicate the path you are meant to find, which will lead to you reaching your ultimate potential. There is beauty in knowing every moment teaches you something you need to know.

You remind your friends of this when they forget. You let yourself be reminded — especially when you veer from your path and it seems like everything is going wrong.

You are sensitive to positive and negative energies in your space. The Universe is more powerful than anything else; there is a special place for you in it and there are certain people you are meant to meet to help you get there.

Church, Sometimes

You don’t go to church all that often, but you go when you can. Maybe you have a couple friends who go with you. You don’t pray every night or before every meal, but you know the Bible and you believe in God and that He has a purpose for you.

You know God exists, even if not in the way your parents believe He does. Church is always cathartic and allows you to be reflective and you come away thinking about how right the pastor is, how he always seems to be talking to you directly.

You quote him to your friends while having coffee. Sometimes, famous people come to church and lead everyone in song. It’s fun. You don’t feel like anyone is forcing anything on you.

You might tell some people you are Christian, but you might tell others you’re not sure. You praise God in your own way, maybe by making beautiful art or curating a beautiful life.

It’s The Small Moments

There are a number of small practices for which we allow room for spirituality in the midst of crazy day-to-day drama. Maybe you got a book on meditation and started doing it for an hour every night.

Maybe you purchased Tarot cards and got good at reading them. You pick one every day and it leads you to pause and reflect about where you are, reminding you to connect with a bigger scene and that this is just one day amongst many.

Maybe you got into palmistry and you see possible paths into the future. It reminds you of your place. Maybe you do yoga. It’s the small moments — these little actions — that are important for connecting you to your spirituality.

“Music Is My Religion”

You don’t know what you believe in terms of the Bigger Things, but you do know one thing, and that’s how art makes you feel. Art is your connection to the other realm, whatever that is. Maybe it’s painting, music, writing or even film.

It’s a spiritual experience for you to go to that concert or that museum or to read that book or see that film. You make art central to your life because it is the one thing that makes sense to you and it provides answers on a much larger scale.

Have a problem? Listen to The National. In your own head too much? Read some Salinger. This is how you find your answers. Everyone who knows you knows about this part of you because it is intrinsic to your nature.

As a generation, we a get lot of flack for being lost, for being obsessed with our technology and oblivious to the bigger things. An older person might argue that if we are so lost, why not turn to organized religion?

Well, because we’re also the do-it-yourself generation and the create-your-own-adventure kids.

We’d rather look something up and figure it out for ourselves than follow blindly in others’ footsteps. Just because Generation-Y does not wear religion on its sleeve does not mean that we are all materialists or nihilists.

Our spirituality is different than previous generations: more fluid, more individualized and more unique. It is not uncommon to go to a party, sit down and ask someone what he or she believes and find that his or her philosophy is utterly specific to who he or she is.

It could be a combination of what’s listed above or something else entirely, but we all believe in our own entity.

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