CHICAGO (NewsNation) — It has been three years since the COVID-19 pandemic halted everyday life across the globe. Since then, more young adults have been searching for and embracing a higher power to get them through the major emotional challenges in the post-pandemic world.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a recent survey by the Springtide Research Institute found that one-third of 18- to 25-year-olds believe in — more than doubt — the existence of a higher power, attributed to the three years of loss, depression and anxiety resulting from the global pandemic. That number is up from about one-quarter in 2021, the WSJ report said.
Isolation, lockdowns, at-home learning and working from home have all had an influence on the need for people to really believe in something bigger than themselves, the report said. Especially since, according to the Wall Street Journal, the pandemic was the first crisis many young people experienced.
Back in February, thousands of people converged at Asbury University for nearly two weeks of nonstop worship. The service renewed attention on young Americans’ participation in spiritual life as Christian faith communities look to reignite an enthusiasm that has faded in recent decades.
Nick Hall, founder of The Pulse Ministry, told NewsNation’s Adrienne Bankert on “Morning in America” that he had the opportunity to experience the Asbury nonstop worship.
“We see such a hunger. It’s a spiritual hunger,” Hall said. “They’ve tried everything else. They saw their parents try everything else. And we see a generation turning to God and really turning to Jesus. And so something is taking off. And I think it’s revival.”
However, a recent poll by The Wall Street Journal and NORC, a research institution at the University of Chicago, found that 39% of Americans surveyed currently view religion as “very important.” That’s a drop from 1998 when 62% did.
The same poll found that only 31% of voters ages 18-29 said religion was “very important” to them, which was the lowest percentage of all adult ages, according to the WSJ report.
Actor Aspen Kennedy told Bankert that his faith has been at the core of everything.
“There hasn’t been one thing I’ve ever been able to accomplish or experience without some sort of testing or exercise of my faith. So truly, the key to life is faith in God through Jesus Christ. And that’s been amazing,” he said.
But someone doesn’t have to claim to be religious or attend religious services in order to be spiritual or have faith.
Nicole Klier, a University of Louisville psychology major, said the difference to her is that it doesn’t take for her to be in a church, or designated place of worship, to be able to connect spiritually.
“Personally, I think a lot of us find peace in finding something to relate to each other, to attach to, to keep us in a solid frame of mind to keep things in perspective,” Klier said.
The shift away from organized religion has occurred across nearly every demographic subgroup, but it’s been especially pronounced among young people.
The WSJ also reported on a Pew Research Center study that revealed only 20% of 18- to 29-year-olds attended any sort of religious services monthly. Those numbers were down 24% from 2019, the WSJ reported.
Klier said she still believes in a community, though, and respects when people tell her they’re going to pray for her or a situation she might be in.
“I definitely respect whatever they’re praying to or for about me. I respect it, and I thank them for it because it does matter to them, which means it should matter to me,” Klier said.
“Generation Z is about 45 to 50% nonreligious now,” said Ryan Burge, a political scientist at Eastern Illinois University who studies religious trends. “It’s probably the least religious generation, at least in our lifetimes, over the last 100 years.”
Since the early 1990s, the percentage of Americans who identify as “religiously unaffiliated” has skyrocketed. The number of people who consider themselves atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” is projected to grow in the coming years.
As recently as the early 1990s, about 90% of U.S. adults identified as Christian. Today, just over 60% of U.S. adults say the same, according to Pew Research.
But regardless of what people believe in, Hall said it’s important for the people who see all the negative to know that there are signs of life and hope.