Illustrations by Amber Vittoria for Man Repeller
BY SERENE NEKOUI
My values and ethics were shaped by the teachings and traditions of the Baha’i faith. Through organized religion, my moral construct was effortlessly guided, as I was constantly reminded by the virtues a member of my faith should be upholding in order to be considered a righteous human being. Words including fidelity, humility, and respect were constantly spoken around me, and my eagerness to share my knowledge of unity and one-ness with peers only grew with age. Although raised with similar morals and values, many of the peers I had grown up with learned these same behaviours outside of an organized belief system. Often times, my faith wasn’t understood. I was told, “Religion is bull$h!t, it’s just a way to stop me from thinking for myself”. And while that may be true with how organized religion has been interpreted and taught in many situations, I stand by the idea that organized religion is a way to promote kindness, diversity, honesty, and humility in a comfortable community setting, often accompanied by specific culture and tradition. But if this is the case, why has organized religion been absent in the lives of so many millennials?
According to an article by Payton Ramey titled “Why Millennials are Less Religious Than Their Parents”, while millennials are less likely to be devoted to the ideals of an organized belief system, 80% of surveyed individuals stated that they had spiritual beliefs. In 2014, roughly 23% of American adults identified as agnostic or atheist. So, why are young adults turning away from formal involvement of religious practice? A fundamental reason millennials do not formally associate with faith is due to a dramatic shift in culture. The Baby Boomer generation generally valued dedication and hard work, living a career-focused life and not typically pushing the limits of traditional values- the subscription to religion was important in terms of success and appropriate lifestyle. North American millennials, on the other hand, are rather infamous for refusing to comply to the expectation of a career-focused life, and have been encouraged to express thoughts about differing beliefs, question authority, strive for equality, and due to socialist regimes, are given more edge than any generation before to succeed. Because of this push to think “outside the box”, as well as a newfound privilege, millennials have become the most individualistic and secular generation yet.
By no means does this demonstrate any negatives in the current society we live in. As a matter of fact, it’s a great aspect of North American society. The lack of cultural pressures among millennials to practice an institutionalized faith and move towards agnostic spirituality is a step away from a traditionally conservative and constricting aspects formal religious organizations have pushed as its fundamental teachings. According to an article titled “Breaking Faith” published by The Atlantic, this influx in secularism has strong correlation with aspects of social progression, such as a greater divide between church and state, a greater tolerance of same sex relationships, and higher acceptance of euthanasia and abortion.
With this increase in societal acceptance in progression, as well as the normalization of societal taboos, it’s quite logical to conclude that formal religion has caused a tremendous amount of conflict in its history. It’s important to remember the significance of interpretation. Fundamentally, each faith strives to promote the same qualities: kindness, honesty, courage, and love are all virtues of the world’s belief systems, regardless of their diversities. Whether these virtues are expressed through a community, a religious faith, or your own conclusions of the world, striving to be the best version of yourself can never be viewed negatively.