Young generation in the US has grown weary of religion while some of them are sharing bad vibes of demonic spirit or cosmic calamity looming over the horizon.

Are Americans turning away from religion? Or do they find going to places of worship meaningless?

A recent Gallup study has shown that the percentage of the US population who are members of a church, mosque or synagogue is now just 47 percent, down from a healthy 70 percent two decades ago. The data, compiled in 2019, reveals the number has come down below 50 percent for the first time. 

Gallup began asking Americans about their church membership in 1937 — and for decades the number has almost always been above 70 percent. That began to change in 2000, however, and the number has steadily dropped ever since.

David Campbell, professor and chair of the University of Notre Dame’s political science department, said that one of the reasons for the decline is political — an “allergic reaction to the religious right” which mixes politics with faith. 

“Many Americans – especially young people – see religion as bound up with political conservatism, and the Republican party specifically,” Campbell said.

He says there has always been an ebb and flow in American adherence to religion, but he thinks the current decline is likely to continue.

Christian nationalists—who believe America was established as, and should remain, a Christian country—have pushed measures to thrust their version of religion into American life.

The rise of ‘nones’

Nones is a term sometimes used for people with no religious affiliation in the US.

According to Pew Research Center, the religiously unaffiliated share of the US population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” in 2019 stands at 26 percent, up from 17 percent in 2009.

Religious “nones” are growing faster among Democrats than Republicans, though their ranks are swelling in both partisan coalitions.

Although the religiously unaffiliated are on the rise among young people, and most groups of older adults, their growth is most pronounced among young adults.

Data shows a wide gap between older Americans and Millennials in their levels of religious affiliation and attendance. Only half of Millennials (49 percent) describe themselves as Christians; four in ten are religious “nones,” and one-in-ten Millennials identify with non-Christian faiths.

READ MORE: Americans lose their faith, as church membership sees downward spiral

Governments hiding something

A recent report on Vox explained that many young Americans feel helpless in front of evil and they pick narratives that have simple answers to their fears.

Evelyn Juarez, 25-year-old TikToker from Dallas with 1.4 million followers, made a video on the tragedy at Astroworld, the Travis Scott concert last month where eight people died and more than 300 were injured. She didn’t cover the incident itself but the supposed ‘satanic symbolism of the set’.

Many of her videos reveal an interest in true crime and conspiracy theories — the Gabby Petito case, for instance, or Lil Nas X’s “devil shoes,” or the theory that multiple world governments are hiding information about Antarctica.

One of her videos from November suggests that a survey sent to Texas residents about the use of electricity for critical healthcare could signify that “something is coming and [the state government] knows it.”

Her beliefs are reminiscent of many others on the  Internet, people who speak of “bad vibes”, demonic spirits, or a cosmic calamity looming just over the horizon, one that the government may be trying to keep secret.

Internet religion!

Juarez said she was raised Christian, although at the age of 19 she began to have a more personal relationship with God outside of organised religion.

Today, she identifies more as spiritual, as an increasing number of young people do, many of them working out their ideas in real time online.

They might act almost as prophets or shamans, spreading the good word and guiding prospective believers, while others might just lurk in the comments.

They might believe all or only some of these ideas — part of the draw of internet spirituality is that it’s perfectly pick-and-choosable — but more than anything, they believe in the importance of keeping an open mind to whatever else might be out there.

Rebecca Jennings, journalist at Vox who covers Internet culture, asked Joseph Russo, a professor of anthropology at Wesleyan University, if this loosely related web of beliefs could ever come together to form into its own kind of religion. “I think it already has,” he said.

Call it the religion of “just asking questions”. Or the religion of “doing your own research”. It’s still in its infancy, and has evolved in an attempt to correct a societal wrong.

The religion of the Internet has culminated in real-world violence, the most obvious examples being the QAnon-related coup on January 6 and the conspiracy theories surrounding life-saving vaccines.

Consider the widespread mainstreaming of astrology over the past decade, the renewed interest in holistic medicine or the idea that your entire personality can be determined by the positioning of the stars at the time of your birth.  

The religion of the Internet posits questions like, “what’s the harm in believing?” and “why shouldn’t I be prepared for the worst?” The deeper you go, the harder those questions are to answer. 

Countering conspiracy theories

Abbie Richards, a disinformation researcher who creates TikToks about how conspiracy theories spread online, regularly works with scholars to debunk and contextualise harmful myths.

She’s watched how chaotic current events — the Astroworld tragedy and Covid-19 — have driven louder conversations around spirituality from TikTokers, no matter where they fall on the ideological or political spectrum.

When enormous swaths of people feel as though they have no power against evildoing, she argues, they tend to opt into narratives that provide a simple answer as to why the world is so terrifying.

“With the case of Astroworld, the [organisers] didn’t do their due diligence, and they prioritised profit over the health and safety of humans.

In her video about the satanic symbolism of Astroworld, Juarez said “I believe there’s good and evil. But if someone is hurting and as a human being you don’t take action, that means you lack empathy and that doesn’t come from a good place. That, to me, is demonic.” 

READ MORE: Was the deadly crowd crush at the Travis Scott concert preventable?