Millennials are losing their faith and replacing it with pizza, pushups and profound digital connections.
Just 27 to 28 percent of people in their 20s and early 30s attend religious services regularly, according to the latest figures from the Pew Research Center. Compare that to the 38 percent of baby boomers who log time in houses of worship, and 51 percent of folks in the silent and greatest generations who still show up for services.
Instead, millennials are getting their spiritual fix from secular pursuits such as fitness classes and Facebook groups — community-driven activities that create a sense of fellowship, inspire meaningful reflection and sometimes include uplifting music.
“They were raised to think for themselves,” says New York University sociology professor Mike Hout. “Millennials are skeptical of authority, including religious institutions.” They’re also redefining sacred rituals on their own terms, as these stories show.
Madison Blank grew up Jewish but is now a congregant in the church of sweat. Whenever possible, the Bowery-based 27-year-old wakes up at dawn for a pilgrimage to Lifted, her favorite workout class at Flatiron’s Bandier studio. Instructor Holly Rilinger creates a spiritual atmosphere by combining calorie burning with enlightening encouragement.
“A whole team of people, including Holly, is rooting for you to succeed, which doesn’t happen all that often in real life,” Blank says. “Coming together with a class forms an unbreakable unity — at least for that hour.”
Reached by The Post, Rilinger says the vibe of motivational support is intentional. The 43-year-old grew up Catholic but no longer practices the faith. Her students are mostly millennial, she says, and classes often end with members catching the feels and crying.
Blank says that she’s so emotionally enriched, she’s stopped going to synagogue. “Fitness has allowed me to connect to my inner self more … than sitting through a religious service,” she says. “A great instructor provides spiritual guidance and builds a community.”
This summer, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg declared that social media is filling the void left by organized religion, welcoming “people who now need to find a sense of purpose and support.”
Religious leaders scoffed at the comparison, but it resonated with Courtney Ferrucci. The 27-year-old consultant grew up worshiping at a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall and always loved how the community rallied around members in need. For her, Facebook networking now serves that purpose. She logs on every day to connect with people in her profession.
“We’re dealing with the same struggles, the same life events,” Ferrucci says. “We give advice to each other and support each other. If there’s a problem, there will immediately be 30 girls trying to help.”
Ferrucci hasn’t gone to church in about eight years but still considers herself spiritual. “Social media gets made fun of for being shallow, but I have built friendships on it that I never would have otherwise.
“I think that’s something my generation has noticed and embraced,” she adds. “Part of what makes millennials amazing is that we form bonds in this powerful way”
The practice has formal religious roots that go back eons, but millennials have made meditation their own with trendy studios boasting close-knit communities. Jo Lanus started going to MNDFL’s Brooklyn studio in 2015, and says the ritual quickly became central to her self-care.
“I really found a home there,” says the 31-year-old West Village resident, who traded the weekly Protestant church services of her youth for daily sessions at MNDFL. “The community aspect of an organized religion is similar to what you find in a meditation studio.”
With the same reverence followers show in a chapel, Lanus and her fellow practitioners stash their phones and focus on bettering their spirit, she says. Lanus still considers herself spiritually Christian but can’t imagine an “om”-less life.
“People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” she says. “For me, meditation is a personal practice that helps me interact with people in my day-to-day [life] and to be more present.”
Every Monday night, Kayvon Touran worships at Cobble Hill’s legendary Lucali pizzeria with two of his close friends. Though he didn’t grow up with a particular faith, Touran has found in Lucali what he never did in organized religion: a community and sense of purpose. He and his buddies look forward to having deeper conversations about what’s going on in their lives, relationships and where they see themselves in the years to come.
“I can’t think of anywhere else I would be able to have that feeling — of being comfortable and collecting myself from the week,” says the 26-year-old, who works at a tech marking company and travels from the Lower East Side for the tradition, which he and his friends started in May 2016. “I think that’s why we call it ‘church.’ It’s bigger than the individual person.”
To get a weekly table at the coveted BYO restaurant, which doesn’t take reservations, Touran and his buddies initially took turns leaving work early every week to add their name to the waitlist. They would also share the wine they would bring with staffers. Their heavenly reward? A standing reservation.
“I appreciate being able to not rely on someone else’s definition of what I should hold sacred in my life,” adds Touran. “I enjoy the ability to decide for myself what I want my week to revolve around.”
Alex Sonnemaker, 22, grew up going to a Methodist church and loved the community and spiritual satisfaction it provided. Still, he left organized religion after high school, describing himself as spiritual but not religious. Now, video games offer him the same solace — without the deep fear of going to hell, he says — by connecting him digitally to a community of other players, many of whom are his good friends.
‘You get a community of like-minded people sharing a life away from the harsher realities of the world.’
“You get a community of like-minded people sharing a life away from the harsher realities of the world,” says the freelance videographer from Long Island City. The games also allow him to connect with his friends back in Montana, where he grew up.
His favorite game, “The Witcher 3,” is practically his spiritual guide. Throughout the game, players are presented with moral questions, such as whether to punish people for specific crimes instead of addressing the root causes of the crime. How a player resolves a particular issue has implications for the rest of his virtual life.
“I still constantly find new ways to think about the issues I face in the real world through the challenges [in the game],” Sonnemaker says. “It’s very biblical — you learn a lot about yourself.”
Source: New York Post
Featured Image: Tremr
Inset Image: New York Post