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(RNS) Baby boomers might not be that different from the Greatest Generation when it comes to religion, says aging expert Vern Bengtson.

6 Comments

  1. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Facing death concentrates one’s (spiritual) thinking. Consequently, it is not surprising that today’s younger people are not as religious as young people of generations past.
    Until modern times young people were as likely to die, in general, than older people. All the epidemics and other assorted health disasters of the past rarely respected youth–and young people knew it. I am 70 years old and remember being terrified by the last big widespread, seemingly unstoppable epidemic–polio.
    But nowadays young people act and think that they will live forever. The Angel of Death is only for old people is the attitude.
    But rarely have I seen any surveys or analysis of this big age factor life expectensy change as a topic in articles or reports about modern religious (or non-religious) attitudes.

  2. Vern Bengstom is simply familiar with sociology, psychology, and history when it comes to those academic areas. We have learned they all affect religion as well as other aspects of human life. Nothing new except that we have come to realize more people are aware of their influences on religion and are reacting differently than their ancestors at different times of their lives.

    In short, as people age, they are forced to come to terms with their limited existence. Most seem to react with concern, even fear, about that reality. Science has convinced more people that much of old religion is untenable. When they are younger, more and more, they are leaving it. As they age, having done too little study, fear invades their earlier, seeming unconcern and they resort in various degrees to some of the “faith of our fathers.” Not all, by any means, and not in the same ways or to the same extents.

    Religion remains a social, cultural impression and influence that is taken on with very little study. Politics is right behind it. Hence the First Amendment wisely required the separation of church and state even though that prohibition has been violated too flagrantly throughout our history and still is today. We must all begin to live with better knowledge and reason and stop resorting blindly to ancient antidotes against human fear, especially when it comes to our very existence.

    • Notice the sharp difference in the color of the hair on Bengstrom’s head and the color of his lower, more recently grown sideburns and beard. The return to religion in later age is no different than the ways people otherwise try to hide aging, both to impress themselves and to impress others. More and more, men are catching up with women in hair coloring to avoid the signs of aging. Contrast the face and hair color of Tony Perkins, the head of Focus on the Family. There is a man who seems to be deeply involved in religion, but it hasn’t stopped him from coloring his hair, and the contrast between his face and his hair color only exaggerate the tale. The tale is his concern about his aging. We’ve become more accustomed to women coloring their hair because they’ve been doing it for a much longer time. Gray hair is feared. Why?

  3. So he is saying people are more likely to fall for the ridiculousness of Pascal’s Wager when they get older.

    Much of his reasoning appears to be more personal projection than reasoned analysis. The definition of “nones” varies generationally. Boomers are less likely to have been out and out atheists than people annoyed with institutional religion. Gen-x to millenials are more likely to be people without any religious belief than just annoyed believers.

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