A quest for certainty is an American tradition. Old World believers often inherit religion passively, like a cultural artefact. Americans, an individualistic bunch, are more likely to switch churches or preachers until they find a creed that makes sense to them. They admire fundamental texts (the constitution, for example) that plain citizens may parse for immutable truths.
At the same time, the literalist faith is in crisis. Young Americans are walking away from the stern denominations that have held such sway over post-war American life, from Billy Graham’s crusades to the rise of the religious right. After they hit 18, half of evangelical youngsters lose their faith; entering a public university is especially perilous. As a generation, millennials (those born between the early 1980s and 2000s), are unimpressed by organised anything, let alone organised religion. Many young adults told the Barna Group, an evangelical research outfit, that they felt stifled by elders who demonised secular America. Young Christians are more accepting of gay rights than their elders. In a challenge to creationists, a quarter of young adults told Barna’s study that their churches were “anti-science”.