American Atheists points to this Pew Poll that surveyed both old and young people in order to measure the similarities and differences in their lives. AA focuses on the stated difference between the two on the importance of religion in their lives,
Religion is a far bigger part of the lives of older adults than younger adults. Two-thirds of adults ages 65 and older say religion is very important to them, compared with just over half of those ages 30 to 49 and just 44% of those ages 18 to 29. Moreover, among adults ages 65 and above, a third (34%) say religion has grown more important to them over the course of their lives, while just 4% say it has become less important and the majority (60%) say it has stayed the same. Among those who are over 65 and report having an illness or feeling sad, the share who say that religion has become more important to them rises to 43%.
American Atheist responded to this with,
“Translation: 56% of the younger generation thinks religion is not very important. That’s more than half, folks!”
I wanted to dig into the numbers to see if that excerpt was overstating the degree of irreligion among the young, and so downloaded the full report (1mb PDF) If anything, however, the situation is even better/worse (depending on your point of view) than that excerpt lets on — significant percentages of young people classified themselves as atheists/agnostics/no religion,
|% Atheists / Agnostics/ No Religion
For the 18-29 year old group, more people identified themselves as atheist/agnostic/no religion than identified themselves as Catholic. This is, of course, entirely consistent with other surveys of religious belief that have shown dramatic increases in unbelief/lack of religious affiliation over the past couple decades, but is still kind of amazing to actually see accelerate.