A Generational Gap in Religious Participation Among African Americans

A new report from the Barna Group, a California-based research organization, finds that African Americans as a whole remain more religious than other racial/ethnic groups in the United States, but younger Blacks are turning away from organized religion.

The proportion of Black adults who say church involvement is overall “desirable” is on the decline, from 90 percent in 1996 (71% “very” + 19% “somewhat”) to just 74 percent today (44% “very” + 30% “somewhat”). A notable 18 percent of Black adults say they are “dechurched.” One-quarter of them have never set foot in any church before.

Young Black adults’ relationship to faith and religion is waning. Black Gen Z (67%) and Millennials (65%) are on par in claiming Christianity, at about two-thirds. This makes them more Christian than their generational peers of other races, but less Christian than older Black adults. Roughly one in four Black Gen Z (26%) and Millennials (22%) say they have no religion.

The report states that “young Black adults also seem to be distancing from faith and spirituality in general, not just affiliation and institutions. Black Gen Z are both the least likely Black generation to call themselves “spiritual but not religious” and the most likely to be “religious but not spiritual,” suggesting a dissociation of belief, practice, and identity.”

The full report, “Trends in the Black Church: More Faithful, But Not Immune to Decline,” may be found here.

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  1. Nothing good can come from these trends. Without religious influences, most blacks will have no durable moral foundation to their lives.

  2. These findings are supported by anecdotal information on behavioral differences in life choices among the age groups and the manner in which life challenges are handled. However Spiritual and religious coping have been the foundation of strength for many in the community and the question becomes “what will support this generation to produce resilience?”

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