In exploring Millennial attitudes toward religion, faith and spirituality across the globe, we found that overall, this generation believes that everybody should have the right to choose their own religion. But their openness and tolerance are also marked by distrust in organised religion, as well as distinctions between faith and spirituality in some countries.On average, only 9% of Millennials say they trust their religious leader and only 10% name “religious leader” among the top 5 inspirational people or bodies of people in their lives (compared to 19% for celebrities and 14% for sports stars). In terms of trust in religious leaders (who could be anyone from a local priest, preacher, imam or rabbi to the Pope), South Africa comes out strongest with a score of 29% trust – still a relatively small minority – followed by USA on 24% and Turkey on 17%. Trust in religious leaders is lowest in France (2%), Japan and Spain (both 3%).
Overall, we see religion still having some hold among Millennials in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil and India – but in contrast, Millennials in China, Russia, Japan and many of the Western European countries – including traditionally Catholic countries such as France, Spain and Italy – demonstrate ever more secular attitudes.
In the world of Millennials, spirituality and faith are, for the most part, closely aligned. While there are a handful of countries – for example, Egypt and South Africa – where religion carries greater weight among the concerns of young people, in most countries our data demonstrates similar patterns of engagement with spirituality vs caring about faith/religion (31% and 33% respectively). Indeed, there is significantly higher emphasis on spirituality than faith/religion in Japan, Russia and China.
In this era of openness, tolerance and flexibility – key traits of the Millennial mindset – young people are characteristically positive about the right of people to practice whatever faith or religion they choose: on average, almost 9 in 10 – and the only countries where the level dips below 4 in 5 are Saudi Arabia and Japan.
However, although strongly in favour of religious tolerance, other indications show that, with the exception of a small sub-set of countries, the Millennial generation is somewhat less actively involved in practicing religion.
Moreover, unlike the relatively uniform pattern we see in terms of people’s rights to practice religion, the extent of support for people’s responsibility to practice religion varies considerably between countries.
On average, only 14% of Millennials globally place “having faith/religion” among their top 5 sources of happiness – ranked #15 from a list of 20 potential happiness drivers. The level increases to above 20% in only 7 of the countries surveyed (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Mexico, USA, Brazil and Turkey), with the score dropping significantly in several countries (Sweden, Germany, Spain, China and Russia, for example).
On average, 20% globally turn to prayer as a way to relax when feeling stressed. The countries where this is more likely to be the case correlate strongly with those where faith/religion is a source of happiness (and conversely we find lower scores in countries where faith/religion has little bearing on happiness).
While for the most part young people around the world share increasingly similar values and attitudes to the world around them, the matter of faith and religion is one which continues to provide a point of difference today. However, given the almost globally low trust we have seen placed in organised religion and the people who represent it, we could be looking at a future in which a more personal form of spirituality may come to hold ever greater importance in the lives of young people around the world.
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Christian Kurz is Vice President of Research & Insights for Viacom International Media Networks. Follow Christian at @kurzch.