By Dasia Cornelio and Noah Solomon
“Please rise for the Kedusha on page 266.” As the people on either side of me begin to rise, I grudgingly stand up to match them. The prayer begins, the entire congregation reciting it in unison. I stand there, mouth closed, undeterred and uninterested in what’s happening around me. Places of prayer are holy spots where people ask for forgiveness, healing, or anything else one might need. However, for an increasing number of teenagers, these places of worship aren’t anything special, just a building you get dragged out to every once in a while to celebrate some holiday.
With Generation Z being the most progressive and innovative generation to date, the phrase “seeing is believing,” takes on a whole new meaning. As science and technology keeps improving, it becomes increasingly difficult for teenagers to put absolute faith in something they can’t even see. Generation Z is moving away from organized religion, and towards atheism. 13% of Generation Z identify as atheist, compared to 6% of all adults in the US.
For senior Mareike Nebel, it doesn’t scare her to not be a part of an organized religion because “more people now than ever are identifying as an atheist, and I am really grateful for that because I feel like I’m not forced into a religion.” A demographic shift is occurring in which Generation Z are moving away from organized religion, because an increasing amount of parents are choosing to raise their children with no religion. Therefore, the child has the choice to practice organized religion or not.
In addition, with our generation having access to media and the internet, there is a greater access to information on all religions. However, eens often see negative sides of organized religion on media as well though, such as terrorist attacks, homophobic protests and shootings. This can deter teenagers from organized religion entirely, because what they see online can influence the way teenagers think about organized religion as a whole.
While typically older generations are comforted by the idea of a greater force watching over them, for many teens in Generation Z, it’s the opposite. “It kinda freaks me out that someone could possibly be watching us, or worse controlling us. It makes me feel out of control and that’s one of my biggest fears,” said sophomore Margo Ogrosky.
In addition, our generation is redefining what it means to be a person, and what constitutes personhood. We are breaking down the rigidly constructed wall set in front of us, and going against ideas that have been preached by other generations for decades, specifically ones that deal with religion and faith. A major aspect of atheism that draws in many teens is the fact that there are no rules to it. There are no restrictions on the type of person you can be, who you can marry, and who you identify as. With the number of gay marriages increasing, all well as the increasing immersion of transgender people into society, athiesm becomes increasingly appealing to younger generations, simply because there are no rules on the type of person you want to be.
Many older generations use religion as a tool for things they don’t understand or comprehend. For teenagers, however, it’s not necessary. They find solace in things other than God. They find peace in holidays, traditions, their community and core values. For sophomore Abigail Bobeck, “In my experience, I don’t feel a connection [to God] and it doesn’t apply to me. Therefore within Judaism the thing that really connects me to it is the core values of it. The way we treat each other, other people and the way we treat the world, are why I continue to associate myself with Judaism.” Atheism is the one religion that people aren’t forced into. It allows you to believe what you want to believe with no shame. It allows you to figure out your life and dictate what goes with your morals. It allows you not to conform to something when you don’t believe. Lastly, it allows you to be you.