Young people are more religious than their elders in only two countries – Ghana, and the former Soviet republic of Georgia – according to a global analysis, reported The Guardian
Worshippers raise their hands at the Pure Fire Miracle Church in Accra, Ghana. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images
In 46 out of 106 countries surveyed by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, people between the ages of 18 and 39 are less likely to say religion is very important to them than adults over the age of 40.
Countries where the age gap is most marked are Poland, Greece, Chile, Romania and Portugal – all predominantly Christian countries, and all with a percentage point difference between the two age groups of 20 or higher.
The US has a 17-point difference, and Ireland a nine-point gap. The UK is among 58 countries in which there is no significant difference between younger and older adults.
In Lebanon, a majority Muslim country but with a large Christian population, there is a 20-point age gap. In Iran, ruled by an Islamic theocracy, there is a nine-point difference.
There is an age gap in a majority of Latin American and Caribbean countries, about half of European countries, and in North America. It is more likely to be a feature of Christian-majority countries than Muslim-majority ones.
According to Pew: “Although the age gap in religious commitment is larger in some nations than in others, it occurs in many different economic and social contexts – in developing countries as well as advanced industrial countries, in Muslim-majority nations as well as predominantly Christian states, and in societies that are, overall, highly religious as well as those that are comparatively secular.”
The report, The Age Gap in Religion Around the World, says that a common explanation is that “new generations become less religious in tandem with economic development – as collective worries about day-to-day survival become less pervasive and tragic events become less frequent.
“According to this line of thinking, each generation in a steadily developing society would be less religious than the last, which would explain why young adults are less religious than their elders at any given time.”
Better education, and a trend towards religious belief as one gets older and faces mortality, could also help explain the gap.
The report notes that the most religious areas of the world are experiencing the fastest population growth, due to high fertility rates and relatively young populations.
Georgian Orthodox priests at a mass baptism in July 2017. Since 2008, when Patriarch Ilia II started baptizing children, the country’s birthrate has markedly increased. (photo: patriarchate.ge)