"Small Empty Church During the Day" by Connor Cunningham / CC BY-SA 4.0

More young adults are leaving religion, but that’s not the whole story, say researchers

May 19, 2020

By Jana Riess

It’s become almost a foregone conclusion that young adults are leaving organized religion in high numbers. Newly published findings from the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) don’t challenge that conclusion — not exactly. But they do offer a fuller picture of what’s happening, including some possible good news for mainline Protestants.

The NSYR tracked more than 3,000 young people from 2002, when they were ages 13 to 17, through their young adult years a decade later. In the fourth and final book about this research, “Back-Pocket God: Religion and Spirituality in the Lives of Emerging Adults” looks at the most recent data as well as interviews from when the research subjects were in their 20s.

Religion News Service spoke with co-authors Melinda Lundquist Denton and Richard Flory about their findings and what is happening with religion in America. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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