BY REBECCA SOARES
Religion, and the practice of it, is a tradition and belief that has been carried out and passed down from generation to generation, yet seems to be lost on the current one.
Throughout the previous generations, families would often come together for religious events and take great pride in their religious connections. Maria Resendes, a 65-year-old resident of Cambridge, has been Catholic her whole life, but has noticed a change as she gets older.
“I was raised Catholic by my family and I still consider myself to be very Catholic to this day. It’s something that my parents raised me into and that I strongly believe, but I see my nieces and nephews growing up and wanting nothing to do with it,” Resendes said. “It’s weird that they’re rejecting it so strongly and want nothing to do with religion. Sure, they went when they were younger but once they get to the age where they make decisions, it goes out the window. I went no matter what all my life but people aren’t like that anymore.”
So what has changed? Students at Conestoga College offered their personal views on why they don’t identity with any religion.
“I could probably never be religious because too many horrible things in history happened due to religion and it’s preaching,” said Taya Indoe, a third-year student in the financial planning program. She isn’t the only one with a tainted view of religion.
“I was religious as a child, on my own, no one else was in my family. Circumstances changed with the church I attended and I did not believe what they stood for,” said Will Homerston, a third-year bachelor of applied health information science student.
Mitch Day, a first-year student in the business foundations program at Conestoga, isn’t outrightly against the idea of religion, but is rather skeptical about what many religions stand for.
“Part of me not identifying with any religion is based on the fact that I am open to ideas. I don’t wholeheartedly believe in any of the ‘stories’ told by various religions. Although I do support a lot of the basis for them, I don’t 100 per cent agree with any,” Day said. “I know that I am open to new ideas though, so yes my mind could change. I have a high interest in science, and ironically, it has given a slight push towards my potential to believe in some sort of intelligent design. The more I learn about the countless natural processes and the makeup of things, it seems fairly thoughtfully engineered. I’m not set in that belief, but I’m not closed off to it.”
According to David Haskell, a religion and culture professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford campus, it’s quite common for the younger generation to not identify with any religions.
“What we’re seeing nowadays is more and more young adults are identifying as agnostic or atheists,” said Haskell. “Young adults don’t want to be a part of it as some of the religions are seen as dangerous to society because of their stance in some matters like pro-life. There’s stigma attached to religion in creating a supply and demand. What I mean by that is the product has to do well in order for people to demand it, so with Christianity I think its marketing is very poorly supplied. Sing songs, secret handshakes, only the in-group knows – if they can’t figure it out they won’t try to join which limits people who might want to join, creating a low demand for the product.”
But according to Haskell, there’s another crucial factor that is playing a role in young adults not wanting to identify with any religions.
“Hollywood figures create stories that are not religious or anti-religious. Scott Clark (an academic writer on church history and historical theology) did a story of religion on prime time TV; less than two per cent of people in TV are devout religious followers and when they are represented, they’re portrayed as mentally unhinged. It’s the pop culture side of things. If pop culture says religion isn’t cool, it’ll impression young adults to that very same image, ” said Haskell.
But why should we care if young adults choose to not identify with any religions?
“When people lose faith in religion, it affects society. Christians give more to charity and volunteer more than the average person, so for every one Christian you’d need to have two average people to equal the charity and volunteering they do, which has an incredible impact on volunteering and charity,” Haskell said. “For example, Sweden has less religious citizens than any other country but also the lowest rate of charity. Christians see things in a way that gets them to do things for others; they do stuff for people they don’t know, it’s not exclusive to people they know. Without religion, people will believe that they don’t have to be nice to people outside their tribe.”
So, what can be done? Young adults can’t be forced to believe in the ideology of a certain religion, but perhaps if young adults expressed their concerns, religions could learn to adapt. Perhaps church officials need to start accepting that others can have views outside their religion’s teachings and that they shouldn’t aggressively express their religion’s views in a way that offends young adults trying to get involved. Maybe then young people would return to the fold.