Study: Teens twice as likely to identify as atheist or LGBT

Participants of a Gay Pride event in support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) rights, chant slogans after police dispersed them, in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday.

(KUTV) — Teenagers belonging to Generation Z (people born between 1999 and 2015) are twice as likely to identify as atheist or LGBT, a new study finds.

Although the last Gallup poll reported only 4.1 percent of Americans (and 7.3 percent of millennials) identify as LGBT, the Barna study found that 12 percent of Gen Z teenagers described their sexual orientation as something besides heterosexual, with 7 percent identifying as bisexual.

Millennials are more sensitive to LGBT issues in general, with 37 percent describing their gender/sexuality as "very important" to their sense of self, compared to 28 percent for their Gen X parents.

Furthermore, a third of millennials know a person who is transgender, and the majority (69%) say it is acceptable to be born one gender and feel like another.

While teenagers have always explored their sexual identity, they have not always been so transparent about their identity and willing to address it so openly.

"Among millennials between 13 and 18 years old, 13 percent consider themselves atheists, compared to just 6 percent of adults overall," Christianity Today reports.

While 68 percent of adults identify as Christian, only 59 percent of millennials identify as such. According to the Barba study, only 1 in 11 teenagers considers themselves to be an "engaged Christian," which is a category the research organization uses for people whose beliefs and practices are shaped by their faith.

“This new study shows that Gen Z has a highly inclusive and individualistic worldview and moral code,” said Brooke Hempell, Barna senior vice president of research, who released the study in partnership with the Impact 360 Institute, a teen ministry. “They see the world and themselves in strikingly different ways than their Gen X parents.”

According to a recent issue of LifeWay's Facts and Trends magazine, Gen Z is the "post-Christian" generation because so many do not ascribe to a specific faith tradition.

Barna found that among Christian teens, 79 percent feel comfortable sharing "honest questions, struggles, and doubts" with their parents.

“Every young person needs to know that all of their questions, complaints, doubts, and struggles have a hearing,” said Brad M. Griffin, the institute’s director. “They need to know that you—and God—are going to hear and hold the questions without pushing the young person away.”

Barna found that one out of five teenagers in the study perceived Christianity as negative and judgmental. Among the biggest factors in the way they saw Christianity were:

  • The problem of evil - 29%
  • Perceived hypocrisy among Christians - 23%
  • Conflict between science and scripture - 20%

In Facts and Trends, a Gen Z student said her peers often perceive religion as oppressive.

In his 2017 book Meet Generation Z, Paster James Emery White writes, "Members of Generation Z hold few things dearer than acceptance and inclusivity. They view many moral stances, such as opposing gay marriage, as stances in line with racism. To them, acceptance means affirmation."

Millennials experience diversity on another level than most adults, as half are not Caucasian, which makes them the most racially and ethnically diverse American generation in history.

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