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Families and FaithHow Religion is Passed Down across Generations$
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Vern L. Bengtson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199948659

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199948659.001.0001

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Religion and Spirituality Across Generations

Religion and Spirituality Across Generations

(p.21) Chapter 2 Religion and Spirituality Across Generations
Families and Faith

Vern L. Bengtson

Norella M. Putney

Susan C. Harris

Oxford University Press

Are there generational differences in religion? Do Millennial youth have perceptions of religion and God that are distinctive from Generation Xers or Baby Boomers? This study found generational differences in views of God and in expressions of spirituality and trends across time that were gradual, starting in one age cohort and slowly developing through time. One trend involved an increasing internalization, or de-objectifying, of God with each successive cohort. The oldest—the WWI and the Depression Era generation respondents—described an all-powerful Heavenly Father evident in nature and “out there.” But Millennials portrayed a more personal, accessible God residing within the human spirit. Another generational trend reflected an increasing separation of religious practice from traditional church worship and religion. The growing emphasis on spirituality, first described by Early Boomers, increasingly separated devotional practices from religious institutions for a growing number of Gen Xers and Millennials who said they were “spiritual but not religious.”

Keywords:   age cohort, Baby Boomers, Depression Era generation, Generation Xers, Millennials, religion, spirituality, spiritual but not religious, youth

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