Belief in God rising among Gen Z amid COVID-19 pandemic, survey finds

Bixby Creek Bridge, Monterey, United States
Bixby Creek Bridge, Monterey, United States | Unsplash/Sammie Vasquez

COVID-19 has led to a rise in the number of young people in the U.K. who are seeking and believing in God, according to a survey, challenging trends indicating that Gen Zers are the most irreligious generation.

A recent YouGov survey found that Gen Zers in their late teens and early 20s are more likely to believe in God than millennials who are in their late 20s and 30s.

Conducted in late November, researchers asked 2,169 people about their faith, inquiring if they believed in God, believed in some kind of spiritual higher power but not God, believed in neither, or did not know. 

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Though the poll unsurprisingly revealed that those older than 60 were the most religious age bracket, 23% of the youngest group, those ages 16 to 24, indicated that they believed in God, an increase from 21% when the question was asked of 18- to 24-year-olds in January. 

Overall, across all age groups, belief in God decreased by 1 percentage point, from 28% to 27% from January to November. Based on responses to the questions, the percentage of what researchers designated as atheists and agnostics — those who said they did not believe in God or a higher power or were not sure — rose from 51% to 56% over the same span of time. 

The study indicated that young people can easily access information about faith on the internet, a main reason for the shift toward belief in God among that age group in addition to less stigma about religious beliefs in their peer groups, yielding more open discussions. 

Lois Lee, a fellow of the University of Kent’s Department of Religious Studies, said that it's still too early to determine whether COVID-19 has caused certain people to embrace faith in the long run. 

“It is highly likely the pandemic has impacted on people’s existential beliefs and practices, but I’m not yet convinced it will have made any group more or less religious in the longer term, though time will tell,” she said, in comments to The Sunday Times. 

"Possibly this year’s data indicate that young people are going through that kind of exploratory period more than others,” she added.

The data reveals a change in the longterm expectation that younger generations will become "progressively less religious," according to Stephen Bullivant, a professor of the sociology of religion at St. Mary's University in Twickenham, adding that it's likely that a larger share of Gen Zers are born into relatively religious homes from "Muslim, immigrant Catholic, or black Christian" families. 

YouGov also found in another survey that 56% of Britons continue to regard the U.K. as a Christian country. 

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