The Magazine

Their Daily Bread

The millennial challenge to organized religion.

Jul 14, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 41 • By DAVID SKEEL
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Although Riley mostly steers clear of the theological dimension of religious institutions’ outreach to millennials, her findings suggest that traditional strategies for conveying religious truth also might need updating, at least for millennials. Christian leaders are fond of simple, logical arguments designed to prove that God created the universe and of demonstrations that atheists do not have an objective foundation for the conclusions they reach about moral issues. These arguments strike many millennials as beside the point. So what if their views aren’t altogether consistent and they can’t give an objective basis for their sense of right and wrong? Millennials are also more concerned with the world as we experience it than with debates over how it was created. Religious leaders might do well to spend less energy sparring with Charles Darwin and more energy showing the insights an ancient faith can offer into beauty, suffering, and other experiences that are not easily explained by popular atheists like Richard Dawkins.

Got Religion? is the perfect playbook for religious leaders (or anyone else) looking to reach out to millennials. There’s only one catch: The strategies won’t work if they seem to have come from a script. “We’ve been ‘marketed to’ since childhood,” as one millennial put it in Leadership Journal, “and we can smell it a mile away.” 

David Skeel is the S. Samuel Arsht professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania.