Gen Y on a mission, study finds

Generation Y - young people born between 1976 and 1990 - may not be keen on church but they have a strong sense of purpose in life, volunteer frequently, and love their families and friends, according to findings of a national study of spirituality released today.

Conducted by researchers from Australian Catholic University, Monash University and the Christian Research Association, the Spirit of Generation Y project (2003-2006) is a national study of spirituality among Australian young people in their teens and twenties.

The project explored Generation Y's range of worldviews and values, their sense of meaning and purpose in life, the ways in which they find peace and happiness, their involvement in traditional religions and alternative spiritualities, how they relate to the society around them, and the influences which shape their outlook and lifestyle.

Among the key findings of the study, 48 per cent of Generation Y (Gen Y) believe in a God, 20 pre cent do not, and 32 per cent are unsure.

However, the two-thirds of those who do not believe in God, or are uncertain, do believe in a "higher being or life-force."

The study also identified three main strands in the "spirituality" of Generation Y: Christian (44 per cent), Eclectic (17 per cent) and Humanist (31 per cent).

However, the study found only 19 per cent of Gen Y are actively involved in a church to the extent of attending religious services once a month or more but many more believe in God and Jesus, and pray regularly.

Religion is seen as a private matter, and there is a strong tide of movement among Gen Y Christians away from previous involvement or identification with a church, and even from religious belief.

The 17 per cent of Gen Y identified as having an eclectic spirituality are likely to believe in two or more New Age, esoteric or Eastern beliefs (including belief in reincarnation, psychics and fortune tellers, ghosts, astrology) and perhaps engaging in one or more alternative spiritual practices (yoga, Tarot, tai-chi), according to the study.

The study says that some of these people attend religious services but most do not. Such beliefs and practices are more common among young women than young men.

Overall, the study found that Gen Y are not notably more self centred and lacking in altruism than older generations with 27 per cent involved in some kind of volunteer work per month.

However, those who are actively involved in service to the community and have positive civic values are far more likely to come from the ranks of those who have spiritual and religious beliefs and actively practise them.

While the report notes that some young people are angry at or disenchanted with organised religion, most simply do not care or are not interested. In this, non-religious young people simply reflect the broader secular context and the spirituality of their own parents, the study concluded.

Photo credit: Ophelia Cherry, stock.xchng

National Study on the Spirituality of Generation Y (Media Release, 3/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The Spirit of Generation Y, Young People, Spirituality and Society (Research Report, Australian Catholic University)
Spirit of Gen Y (Christian Research Association) | CRA
Generation Y (Wikipedia)

"Builders and dreamers" to gather in Broken Bay (Cathnews, 28/6/06)
Generation Y embracing mix and match religion (CathNews, 13/4/05)

3 Aug 2006