Are Millennials Killing Off the Religious Right?

What Women Really Think
July 22 2013 11:00 AM

Are Millennials Killing Off the Religious Right?

Religious progressives are on the rise.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Are we facing down the end of the conservative death grip on religion in America? It's true that religious progressives have always been a part of the conversation—it's not just Republican politicians who pay fealty to God in their public speeches and appearances—but by and large, when faith is discussed in public forums, it's almost always religious conservatives using it as a cudgel to attack women's rights, gay rights, and secularism. That may be changing, however, as the numbers of religious progressives are on the rise, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. In fact, for people ages 18-33, religious progressives outnumber religious conservatives. ThinkProgress reports:

According to the survey, 23 percent of people aged 18 to 33 are religious progressives, while 22 percent are nonreligious and 17 percent are religious conservatives. By contrast, only 12 percent of those aged 66 to 88 are religious progressives, whereas 47 percent are said to be religious conservatives.

This demographic shift might go a long way to explaining why anti-choice politicians have chosen now to be the time to drastically dial up the number of attacks on reproductive rights. Abortion has been legal for 40 years, and until recently, anti-choicers mostly chipped away at access quietly and without much notice from the press. Lately, however, anti-choicers have turned up the volume, attacking abortion access—and contraception—with a frenzy that seems as if they think this is the last chance they'll ever get. Numbers like the ones produced by this survey suggest that they aren't wrong to think they're running out of time. 

I'm sure religious conservatives had a hunch that they were losing young people long before this polling data confirmed it, just by looking at the people sitting in their pews. Evangelical leaders have been fretting about this loss for a couple of years now, and it's an open secret that the youngest generation finds the reactionary politics and hostility toward science that marks religious conservatism to be repulsive. Some of the kids fleeing the flock just end up having no religious beliefs at all, but some clearly want to retain a connection to faith without having to sign off on the anti-feminism, homophobia, and creationism that comes with the more conservative churches. 

While it's unwise to write off the possibility of yet another revival of conservative religious mania—conventional wisdom would say that the young progressives will get more conservative as they age, though that's not necessarily true—for the time being, the signs point to a simmering down of the religion wars in the U.S. Religious progressives are politically aligned with the nonreligious, particularly in their opposition to the religious right's impact on politics. What we're seeing with the religious right, therefore, is a bunch of people grabbing as many goodies as they can before they're kicked out the door. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059


Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

How Moscow’s Anti-War March Revealed One of Russia’s Deepest Divides

  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 7:46 PM Azealia Banks’ New Single Is Her Best in Years
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.